Saturday, May 05, 2007

Bar Mitzvah Flashback

As I approach my 49th birthday, I gave a little thought sketch at Or Shalom this morning.

I imagined that I was once again 13 years old and looking out at the congregation at my Bar Mitzvah, seeing my parents and friends in the pews, and an older gentleman who looked strangely familiar, but a little weird. After the service, this guy approached my younger self and introduced himself to me as myself, myself at 49. The older me seemed pressed for time, but felt the need to explain all the amazing, sad, wondrous, and important events to come in this pudgy teenager's life, and watched for the reaction. After a few moments thought, the youngster replied, "Cool," and excused himself to go see his friends. "Just before you go, some advice," I told myself in the little cone of silence that seemed to be keeping us separate from the bustling friends and family. "In the 80's, when interest rates are like, 25%, it would be a better idea to save than to borrow."

The weekly portion (parasha) for my Bar Mitzvah "Behar" - on the mountain, starts talking about a period of 7 years, and 7 times 7 years. According to the Torah, farmers are supposed to let their fields lie fallow every 7 years, like a Sabbath for the land. After 7 cycles of these 7 years, the year after is called "Yuval" or in English "Jubilee". I remember thinking at the time that it was pretty smart to build sustainability into God-given rules so that people follow wise rules even when they are inconvenient.

I've always liked the number 7, and it has great significance in Judaism. Now that I am 7 times 7 years old, I'm looking forward to a great year. Forty-nine, is called a "perfect square" because it is formed by multiplying a number by itself. There are lots of significant perfect squares for me this year. Six times six is 36, which is the number of years between being 13 and turning 49. Five times five is 25, which is what interest rates were when I should have saved more. Four times four is 16, which is the age of our oldest son, Sol. Three times three is nine, which doubled is 18, known as "Chai" or "Life" by the sum of its letters, and is the number of years Tilly & I have been married. Two times two is four, which is the number of people in our immediate nuclear family, and One times One is One, which is what I always seem to be making out of two things, and what I think the world is about.