Today is not a good day for paraskavedekatriaphobics –those who are afraid of Friday the 13th. Most paraskavedekatriaphobics don’t really know why they are afraid of this day. The fear was just passed on to them and they fully believe that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day.
There are many reasons that the number 13 has gotten a bad rap. It is often seen as an incomplete number. The number 12 is often viewed as a complete, whole number: there are 12 tribes of Israel, 12 hours on clocks, 12 months in a year, 12 Olympic gods. Because of this, 13 is seen as excessive, unstable and thus, unlucky.
In the Christian faith, many believe that Jesus was crucified on a Friday. As a result, Friday became associated with bad things. In the 14th century, Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales taught: “on a Friday fell all this misfortune.” By the 1800’s, it was widely believed that it was unlucky to begin a new adventure, give birth or get married on a Friday. Adding to the negativity associated with Friday is the teaching that there were 12 people seated with Jesus at the Last Supper. Clearly, there are powerful religious origins behind paraskavedekatriaphobia.
This Friday the 13th, I have good news for all of you who suffer from paraskavedekatriaphobia: for Jews, Friday and the number 13 are far from unlucky! Friday is the day we prepare for Shabbat – our day of rest and joy. Friday is a busy day, one filled with shopping, cooking and putting together other things that we will need to enjoy Shabbat. Friday is the 6th day of the week. The number 7 is considered a complete number in Judaism as it is the last day of the week – our Shabbat. Judaism, interestingly enough, does not teach us that 6 is an incomplete number. Rather, it teaches us that 6 is the “lead-in” day – the day we get ready for greatness!
The number 13 in Judaism is far from an unlucky number. Consider that our children become bar/bat mitzvah at 13. Thirteen has been traditionally seen as the age of responsibility and celebration! God is described as having 13 merciful, caring, loving attributes. And the great Jewish philosopher Maimonides taught that in order to be a true Jew, one must embrace 13 Fundamental Principles.
For Jews, 13 is a wonderful, powerful, holy and complete number and Friday is the wonderful day that leads to Shabbat. So, I wish you a happy Friday the 13th and a Shabbat Shalom!