"There are only two ways of telling the complete truth—anonymously and posthumously."Thomas Sowell

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday The Thirteenth, Pre-quelled

So it's Friday the 13th, a day for which our culture seems to have conceived a dread. Somewhere in the murky historical memory is the tale of the birth of this superstition; one thing is for certain, it shows no signs of dying anytime soon.

Does anyone have any idea why this is taken to be an ill-starred time?

Well, let me share with you a theory that I heard in my youth. The Talmud (Makot 23b) says that the Jewish People were given 613 commandments, or mitzvot. (There are disputes between Maimonides and other early commentators about the exact list, but all feel obligated to arrive at that total somehow. Incidentally, most of them relate to aspects of the Temple service, leaving only 270 applicable in the present day.)

Thus, people who feared or hated the Jews saw the coinciding of the sixth day of the week with the thirteenth day of the month as a bad omen.

Interestingly, when Terry Wallis made his miraculous recovery in 2003, emerging from a coma after nineteen years, it was widely noted that his injury had occurred on Friday the 13th (July 13, 1984) and recovery had come on Friday the 13th (June 13, 2003), almost 19 (6 plus 13) full years later. Perhaps, then, 613 is one way that God signs His name.


Tlaloc said...

here's an interesting article on the possible origins of superstition around 13 and friday the 13th especially. One possibility they suggest is a perversion by christians of what was actually considerd a lucky number/day by early goddess worshipping religions due to the connection with menstruation. That'd be similar to the change of the word "bitch" from a word connected to a priestess or goddess to the more derogatory usage today.


Anonymous said...

I'm fairly certain the bad juju associated with this date stems directly from the order of Pope Clement V, in conspiracy with King Phillip of France, to arrest all of the Knights Templar in Europe so that they could seize their property and wealth. In October 1306, secret orders were sent to every province in France to use military force against the KTs. But on pain of death, local officials were prohibited from opening the letters that bore the instructions until the 13th of the month, which just happened to be a Friday. Many, if not most of the KTs met a very bad fate after their apprehension. Hence, the unlucky connotations associated with Friday the 13th - a distinctly western superstition!