Special guest post. We welcome back, Daveed Shachar. As usual, opinions expressed by guest bloggers are not necessarily that of the management of AACI.
On Sunday I turned 63, and got to thinking about why 63 is such an important birthday.
The birthdays marking many of the major transitions in our lives occur regularly, once every 21 years. These dates are rare, as the first digit is exactly double the second digit. If we extend this to include numbers in which the final digit is equal to half of all preceding digits, we have the following ages:
At the age of 21, we finally exit full stupidity and begin to reach understanding. As Mark Twain wrote, “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.” We’re old enough to start having children and impart what we know to the next generation.
At the age of 42, we enter maturity. Since it takes around 25 years to train a person to be a fully functioning member of 21st Century society, a 42-year old has had 17 years to move up the ranks and become both knowledgeable and experienced enough to be a useful and contributing member of society. Many of us are becoming grandparents, watching on horrified as the 21-year olds demonstrate how little they know about child-bearing, and, by example, how little we knew when we were in our early 20’s.
At the age of 63 we enter middle age. (editor’s note – I really want to agree with this) Most people, although at the peak of their professions, are being replaced by young whippersnappers. Almost all men and most women are past child-bearing age. The ones who aren’t becoming grandparents are becoming great-grandparents.
At the age of 84 we enter old age. We’re watching yet another generation get born, terms like great- and great-great becoming both satisfying and scary.
The ones who enter the world of triple-digit age become irrelevant. When they turn 100 they get a check from the president of Ireland, or a birthday card from the Queen, or sometimes a letter from the American president, and then when they make it to 105 get their pictures in the paper and sometimes even make it into the Guiness Book of Records. At family gatherings, they are either applauded for living so long, something they usually had very little to do with, or ignored completely as too old to be either useful or even interesting. And this at precisely the age when many of them have accumulated vast stores of knowledge and interesting stories about life going back so far that sometimes the century has changed twice within their lifetimes.
Personally, I’m happy to take all the joy of watching my grandchildren grow, while leaving the lion’s share of responsibility to the parents. We hope that they get much joy from their children, while secretly hoping their children annoy them at times as much as they did us, when they were tykes.
In gematria, the Jewish system of assigning numerical values to the letters of the alphabet, 63 is equal to 27, khaf and zayin, which turned around spell zach, which means pure, plus 36, which is the number of people keeping the world from coming to and end, also known as the lamed vav, or lamed vavniks.
“This widely-held belief, this most unusual Jewish concept is based on a Talmudic statement to the effect that in every generation 36 righteous “greet the Shechinah,” the Divine Presence (Sanhedrin 97b; Sukkah 45b). ”
–Rabbi Raymond A. Zwerin, THE 36 – WHO ARE THEY?, Rabbi Zwerin’s Kol Nidre Sermon, Temple Sinai, Denver, Sept 15, 2002/5763
Therefore, a person who turns 63 is imbibed with the combined qualities of righteousness and purity. May the Almighty give us the wherewithal to maintain them for as long as possible.
April 3, 2013