Saturday, February 16, 2008

Playing By The Numbers

There's a lot of discussion about some of the "silly" things frum Jews do or believe in, particularly as regarding segulos or "good or bad omens." Some people tend to get really excited in these discussions, and feelings run high. I'm not touching this topic with a ten-foot pole. However........

When it comes to certain areas we mostly agree about some significance being there for certain things, even if we aren't sure what that significance is. In particular what comes to mind is the number 18. The word "chai" has the gematriah of 18. Many, many people give tzedaka in multiples of 18. In fact, many tzedaka organizations list on their donation forms suggested amounts that are "chai" and its multiples. In shuls where the mispallelim pay for the various kibbudim, you will frequently hear "chai" called out or "tzvei mull chai" or "drei mull chai." When I put tzedaka into the pushka before bentching lecht for shabbos or yom tov I put in multiples of chai, and I am far from the only one. When we write out a check for a wedding or bar mitzvah we give an amount that is a multiple of chai.

In the secular world there is some significance given to certain wedding anniversaries, particularly the 25th and the 50th. These are considered milestone anniversaries and are quite frequently the occasion of big parties. This is the case in the Jewish world as well. Plenty of frum people who make a big deal out of these two anniversaries.

Me, I'm thinking more in favor of the "chai" anniversary system. Okay, I'm just a tad prejudiced here. Tomorrow night it will be our 36th anniversary. And yes, I've been thinking of the significance of "tzvei mull chai" as it applies to marriage. Two lives entwined as one. "His" life and "her" life put together and lived as "their" life. And yes, after 36 years it is definitely "our" life that is being lived.

For the 18th anniversary it is "one" life, because a couple as been working hard to establish themselves as a couple with joint goals. They are having children together, buying and establishing homes together and working towards an unbreakable unity. It is "one times chai."

For the 36th anniversary you look back and see that you are two unique individuals, each with personal goals and preferences, who have nonetheless found a way to be together in all the ways that are important. You are two equal but different parts of a greater whole--"tzvei mull chai."

And for the future? God willing we should all be zocheh to see 54 years of marriage. We are going to be starting that journey now. What do I hope for in "drei mull chai"? One chai for the us that is an unbreakable unit, one chai to represent our individuality within that unit and one chai to represent the next dor, our children. At 54 years parents can see the fruit of their labors in their children and their children's children.

No superstition involved here, just a way of looking at the numbers. How will we celebrate this 36th anniversary? We'll be writing out some checks of "tzvei mull chai" to send to tzedaka. Our way of saying thank you and of sharing the gift that has been given to us. Neither my husband's parents nor mine were zocheh to this anniversary. We don't take lightly the zchus that has been given to us.


Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Indeed a milestone. May you be blessed to see that 54.

Orthonomics said...

Mazal Tov and many more happy years together. (As Sephardim, our big numbers would be 26 and 52. A much larger interval).

ProfK said...


Is there a special significance to the two numbers?

Anonymous said...

Mazal tov! Sounds like a wonderful point to be at. Only 31 more years to go here.

Anonymous said...

From one 36er to another, mazel tov. You're right--it's a great number.

Orthonomics said...

IIRC it is the gematria of one of Hashem's names. Works the same as chai, just multiples more quickly.