Today isn’t a good day for paraskavedekatriaphobics – those who are afraid of Friday the 13th. Most paraskavedekatriaphobics don’t really know why they’re afraid of this day. The fear has just been passed on to them by others and they fully believe that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day.
Paraskavedekatriaphobia is grounded in two fears that have come together to form a powerful superstition: the fear of the number 13 and the fear of Friday.
There are many reasons why the number 13 has gotten a bad rap. It’s seen as an incomplete number, while 12 is viewed as a complete, whole number. This most likely explains why there are 12 tribes of Israel, 12 hours on clocks, 12 months in a year and 12 major Greek gods. It also explains why 13 is associated with instability and misfortune.
In the Christian faith, Good Friday isn’t really a “good” day at all. It’s a commemoration of Jesus’ crucifixion on a Friday. Many assert that because of this highly charged religious moment, Friday became associated with bad things. The Canterbury Tales, which was written in the 14th century, contains one of the earliest and most well-known references to the negativity associated with Friday: “on a Friday fell all this misfortune.” It’s unclear whether this negativity had anything to do with Good Friday. Some assert that it reflects the powerful Roman goddess Venus and her connection to Friday. No matter what, this verse is often cited when it comes to exploring the superstitions associated with Friday the 13th. By the 1800’s, the negativity associated with Fridays pushed people to believe that is wasn’t a good thing to begin a new adventure, give birth or get married on a Friday. Add to this the Christian teaching that there were 13 people at the Last Supper, it’s pretty clear why paraskavedekatriaphobia became a thing.
This Friday the 13th, however, I’ve got good news for all the paraskavedekatriaphobics out there! In Judaism, 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’ll 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. But, Judaism doesn’t teach us that 6 is an incomplete number. Rather, it teaches us that 6 is an important day of preparation – the day we get ready for greatness.
The number 13 in Judaism is a good number. Consider that our children become bar/bat mitzvah when they turn 13. During this 13th year, we celebrate our children as they take on more responsibility. In addition to this, God is described as having 13 merciful attributes. And the great Jewish philosopher, Maimonides, taught that in order to be a true Jew, one must embrace 13 Principles.
For Jews, 13 is a 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!