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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Is My Number Up?

By Bettijane Eisenpreis

As I walked into my bedroom today, the number on my digital clock immediately jumped into view — 9:11. nine eleven – it will never be just a number to me, or millions other, since that fatal day in 2001.

I am incredibly lucky. My son Steven – my only child – delivered an envelope to a firm on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center just ten minutes before the first bomb went off.

I am twice lucky in that I did not know he was there until he was safe at home two hours later. I always thought there was a God but now I am sure of it. At least God – or whatever Power is up there – was there for me.

But how do I explain what happened to the almost three thousand people who perished that day? Must we simply say that their number was up on nine eleven?

For Jews, of whom I am one, numbers are incredibly important. Every time I agree to collect money for a worthy cause, many of the donations come in multiples of eighteen, puzzling my non-Jewish neighbors.

The ancient Hebrews were economical fellows. Why invent a whole system of numbers when you already had letters? So “aleph,” the first letter, is one, “bet” two, and so forth. The letters for eighteen spell “chai” (life) and are therefore very lucky.

My Hebrew is rudimentary to put it kindly. So I have no idea what the letters are for the number 9-11, and I am not sure I want to find out.

Ordinary Jews like me have traditionally been discouraged from studying numerology. Scholars have looked on it as a pseudoscience, scoffing at those who would attribute significance to numbers, while at the same time investing it with a dark power.

It is perfectly fine to give $36 or $72 to the UJA instead of $25 or $50. But if you start investigating the letters of your Hebrew name or trying to predict events based on the secret meaning of dates, you are suspected of practicing black magic – which, the scholars insist, they don’t believe in. But which is evil anyway.

Don’t think that the superstition attached to numbers has escaped us enlightened modern people. If your favorite grandchild is born on 9-11, you are probably delighted that the baby has arrived and is healthy but the date is bound to give you pause.

Perhaps, when the birthday rolls around you look up to the heavens and breathe an extra prayer that another year has passed and all is well.

My father-in-law was born on May 19 and died on January 19 – which my mother-in-law always saw as an omen. When I learned that my baby was due in May, I prayed that it would be any day but the 19th, knowing that my mother-in-law would invest his birth with all sorts of eerie significance.

And when was he born? You guessed it! But the good lady is now at her eternal rest and Steven is alive and thriving. So there!

If you think we have risen above such superstitious nonsense, I need only say, “I’ve got your number” or “Your number is up” to give you pause. These phrases have become part of the language.

Why don’t we say, “I’ve got your letter” or “I’ve got your word?” Think about it.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Great points and insights, Bettijane. And I'm always fascinated by those cultures (of which my mother was one) that celebrate "name-days" rather than "birth-days". Perhaps to avoid that evil number thing altogether?

My grandson was expected to be born on 9/11/02. He arrived 9/12/02 .. whew ...

I was born on Friday the 13th and can only imagine comments my mother heard.

Btw... I've not completely "risen above such superstitious nonsense" after all these years. :-(

Good post--some interesting observations and information new to me.

My grandfather and father both were born on Christmas Day, and I came along a bit later on New Years Day.

I've never been able to attach any significance to the "holiday boys." But I have a little fun when people ask for my date. My usual response is, "Jan. 1, that's why we celebrate."

It is so interesting that no matter how logical, rational or otherwise intelligent we see ourselves - numbers can still have an impact - particularly our birthday number - thanks for that post - really interesting.

I always thought the phrase "Your number is up" referred to the scripture in Job which says our days are numbered. Now, I'm wondering. Interesting and informative post.

Funny how we look at the "wisdom of the ancients" (of whom we really know very little, if you think about it) and assume they were superstitious about numbers. We attach so much to the scientific method that if we can't prove it in the way scientifically, we say it's not true. Yet we still don't understand why the bumblebee can fly the way it does, can't quite figure out why F-M radio works, etc. Why on earth we think we have to know everything that our forefathers probably already knew is beyond me. Great post with insight I didn't know.

Thank you for that story. It has set me to thinking along a regretful, but necessary path:

I understand the thinking that it was all superstition. But, some of the valuable knowledge our "forefathers" had has been lost.

The manufacturing of pills that now contain nothing of the healing plants they are named for, is one way.

Another is in the big farming practice, we are losing the knowledge as a people, of how to use the land, let it rest for a season to regain the nutrients after some crops are grown—rotation of crops. And
how to take care of the "pests" in a way that we do not poison ourselves.

Then there is the farming practice of using antibiotics on cattle and hogs and, thus, causing those medicines to not work for us because we have consumed the meat that is filled with them.

We have lost the ability to care for ourselves because we have ignored the wisdom held by earlier generations. We now eat packaged foods that are filled with we-do-not-know-what. We can read a label, but we have no idea what the ingredients are.

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