© 2020 Drew T. Noll

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Thirteen

In the Hebrew language and in Judaism itself, the number 13 is quite significant, as opposed to what seems like the rest of the world, which considers it unlucky at best. When I was a wee tot, way back on the 2nd of the Jewish month of Cheshvan, somewhere around the month of October in the Jewish year of 5736, I would have been barmitzvahed on the week of my 13th birthday… if I had actually been born Jewish. I can’t remember what I was doing then, but most likely I was in my home town of Laguna Beach, California shredding a 13 foot home grown half-pipe on my skateboard. I was definitely not reciting my barmitzvah parsha, Noah (Genesis 6:9-11:32), on the bema in front of my entire community. Maybe one of these days I will try to make up for lost time and try to spill out the parsha on the bema here in Israel. I don’t know... It is a really big commitment.

In Judaism, when a boy turns 13, he is responsible for himself spiritually. My son Zach’s birthday was this week and I can still remember listening to him recite ‘this’ week’s parsha, Metzora (Leviticus 14:1-15:33), at the Kotel in Jerusalem, exactly one year before we made aliyah to Israel. Actually, Zach’s barmitzvah trip to Israel was the inspiration for us all to pull up stakes and move halfway around the world to the Promised Land. We were living in Boulder, Colorado at the time and as my wife, Adele, has been known to say on occasion, “We moved from Paradise to the Promised Land!”

The other night Adele said something else that was quite intuitive. We were in the middle of cleaning up the mess from a little mabul (a great flood almost like in the parsha Noah) of our own that washed from the much prayed for rain, off of our roof, onto the little merpeset (porch) outside Zach’s room, under the door to his room, and down the stairs into the living room. Zach was away at the base and the rest of us schleppers waded through the ankle deep water with giant hand held squeegees, just waiting for the deluge to subside. When we had a chance to catch our breath Adele asked me, “Why do you think we have been flooded out in just about every place we have ever lived?” I hadn’t thought about it before, but she was right!

Come to think of it, even way back on our first honeymoon, when we went camping in Northern California, we spent most of our time in laundromats and diners waiting for everything to dry out from the torrential rains. We even tried to dig little trenches around our tent to drain the water, but with no great effect… Then there was that little kitchen drawer back in our apartment in Laguna Beach that would spill water over its edge, like a perfect little water fall, speedily filling up the entire kitchen. We had to stack piles of newspaper across the doorway to try and contain it until we could catch our breaths enough to laugh and practice being intuitive. We had a bit of a break on the flood front for a few years when only those few incidents occurred, where my pickup truck would stall going through a puddle and I had to get out and kick it until I heard the stuck fuel pump start with a ‘Bdbdbebdbdbd.....’ and then, in Boulder, we had the mother of all floods. Our entire finished basement filled with water. We had to schlep things for days and eventually pulled up and propped the wall-to-wall carpet up on cans and wooden blocks with fans running around the clock to dry it out.

Israel was no different. I already wrote about one or two of those floods at our old house here in Zichron Ya’akov, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to find a water fall flowing down the stairs again. Actually, it kind of reminded me of my would-be barmitzvah parsha, Noah. We all know that the parsha about Noah in the Bible is all about the mabul or great flood that swamped the planet, killing off all the ruffians and hoodlums that were too dumb to get on the big love boat. Yep, that was a segue... I use the word ‘love’ for a reason. You see in Hebrew, the word for love is ahava (אהבה), spelled aleph, hey, bet, hey. The numerical value or gematria of this word is actually 13! And we have come full circle back to the number 13, but this still does not explain why the western world seems to have shunned the number 13 as being a bad number or just an unlucky one, resulting in all kinds of shtuyote (nonsense), like buildings without a 13th floor and streets without a number 13 house on it.

First of all, the idea of ‘luck’ in the world is something that we already understand is an unfortunate fabrication by the collective ego of mankind. What, you didn’t know that already? Well, I am tempted to explain, but that is another story... maybe. So, what is the deal with the western world and their fear of the number 13? There is even a word for ‘fear of 13.’ It is ‘Triskaidekaphobia’ (I can’t even say it), which is made up of the Greek words: Tris, Kai, Deka, and Phobia (Tris = 3, Kai = +, Deka = 10, and Phobia you already know). There is also a word for ‘fear of Friday the thirteenth, paraskavedekatriaphobia... bla bla bla..., which is too convoluted for me to go into the Greek gematria; however, suffice it to say that it all goes back to the idea that Friday the 13th can only occur in months that start with Sunday on the Gregorian calendar; you know, the one established by Pope Gregory the 13th who happened to begin his papacy on May 13, 1572.

So, this could be the reason that the western world believes that the number 13 is bad luck, or since we are on the topic of Christianity, it could be related to the whole Last Supper deal, which had 13 people sitting at the table for a Passover Seder, when one of the participants at the Jewish Passover meal (a meal that commemorates the freedom from slavery in Egypt by being totally dependent upon God for everything) evidently betrayed another participant at the table. There are even restaurants, like the Savoy Hotel in London, that don’t seat 13 people at a table because of this very superstition about bad luck. Maybe fear of 13 isn’t related to Christianity at all. I mean, the name Sunday was originally named after the Greek god of the sun, Apollo, not a saint or something, and there is that incident with the Apollo 13 spacecraft, the 3rd spacecraft that was intended to land on the moon. It launched into space on April 11, 1970 at exactly 13:13 CST. Then on April 13th an onboard explosion caused Ground Control to scrap the mission. The crew did finally make it back to Earth, despite extreme danger and difficulty, but it makes you wonder whether Ground Control had a bit of triskaidekaphobia going on.

Yeah, there is a ‘great flood’ more to think about... things like the Greek and Russian Orthodox Churches, which are superstitiously missing 13 days each on their calendars, things like the Iranians having a holiday called Sizdah Bedar (the 13th of the month of Bedar), which is kind of like April Fool’s Day and considered a day of bad luck… and there are other things; things like the entire Aztec calendar being based on the number 13 and for Hindus, Maha Shivaratri is the Great Night of Shiva the Destroyer, which commences the thirteenth night of the waning moon in the month of Maagha. And then there is the Thai New Year, Songkran, which is celebrated on April the13th, in which people are splashed incessantly with water to wash away the... the only translation available is ‘bad stuff.’ Let’s just speed through this: The Tarot card of death is 13, the French Templars were tortured and burned at the stake on Friday the 13th in the thirteen hundreds, and a whole mess of stuff about the American flag and the dollar bill having to do with the number 13 is just too much to even think about for this blog... and the list goes on…

So, we can see from this brief expose that the number 13 is considered ‘bad’ or ‘unlucky’ by more than just the western world, but the entire world; all accept for a little people from the heart of the Middle East called the Jews… What is the deal with that?

Well, we have started to decipher the ‘barmitzvah’ and ‘love’ pieces of the puzzle, but let’s just open it up a bit more and see what we can see... There was a famous cabalist and mystic, Rabbi Chaim Vital, born in Italy in the year 1620, who wrote down much of the teachings of his rabbi, Rabbi Isaac Luria or better known as the Arizal. Rabbi Vital tells us that the first 13 days of the Jewish month of Nissan (yes… that is this month) hint at the first 13 years of one's life. When the 13th year ends and the 14th year is just about to begin, something pivotal happens to a person — the yetzer ha’tov (impulse to create good) in a person finally catches up to the yetzer ha’ra (impulse to create bad) and that is when a person is able to begin a long and hopefully fulfilling life of intense introspection. So, we all have a reprieve now from the coming struggle it seems, when the yetzer ha’tov begins to tamp down the ego leavening that our yetzer ha’ra has been fermenting with, and then it is chumetz-free for Passover week!

Yeah, there is a lot there that I did not go into, but I got a schedule to keep here! Let me just finish with the opening line from George Orwell's brilliant, yet harsh novel, 1984, "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." OK, that is depressing… How about this instead: My son, Zach, was going to take a train to a meeting that he needed to go to for the Army. He is in a unit now that is a bit sketchy, working with anti-terror or something like that, and he is about to go to another really hard week long test to get into one of the highest ranking units in the IDF (his mother and I are quite pleased!!!).

He decided at the last minute, on the way to this pivotal meeting, to take the next train, since he thought it would get him to his destination much too early. The train he almost boarded, while traveling somewhere around Netanya, had a head on collision with another train that was, at the time, inexplicably traveling in the other direction on the same tracks! The last I heard, at least 60 people were injured quite badly...

My question to you is this: Do you think that it was just blind ‘luck’ that Zach did not get on that train or do you think it might have been an angel or two protecting Zach (and his parents too)?

When you make your decision, please keep in mind that Metatron’s cube (you know, the angel that is called the Great Scribe, just like Moses is in the Torah) is also 13 sided and if you double 13 (this is the real gematria) you get 26, the gematria of the same exact number as the unpronounceable Tetragrammaton, the personal, incomprehensible, utterly private name of God, the name that we refer to as ‘The-Name’ or in Hebrew, ‘Ha-Shem...’ So, you can choose ‘luck,’ in which everything in the universe comes down to each of our little egos, individually, up against the great big universe, or you can choose ‘love,’ where everything in the entire Universe is created and maintained exactly and permanently just for you!

As you probably figured out by now, I think luck is way overrated and all you (really) need is 13!

Shabbat Shalom!