Thursday, March 13, 2008

Who Knows Thirteen?

I live in a building that has no 13th floor. And the hospital where I take a clinical course also has no 13th floor. Obviously this isn't because the buildings are short, but rather because of the common superstitious fear of the number thirteen. They go right from 12 to 14. This always struck me as rather amusing given that from a Jewish perspective 13 is actually a good number. Think Bar Mitzvah, 13 Attributes of God, 613 mitzvot and even the Rambam's 13 Principles of Faith.

Anyway, I just found out recently that in some East Asian nations the number 4 is feared. (Though, again, Judaism has a number of positive connotations for the number 4. Are there any bad numbers in Judaism?) This is because the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean words for four also sound like the word for death. So buildings in those countries tend to likewise skip floors 4, 14, 24, etc.

And then I saw this picture (from wiki) which made me laugh. It's from an elevator in a building in Shanghai, which is apparently a melting pot of the world's superstitions:


12 comments:

Frum Heretic said...

Don't they skip floor 18 in Israel because that is the gematria of egoz? Or maybe it's 17...

frumskeptic said...

"Are there any bad numbers in Judaism"

Nope, Just heard a speech on this. Kinda interesting, they can twist any number into something good.

But then, while us Jews are ok with numbers,, we do have our fair share of superstitions.

Orthoprax said...

Probably more than our fair share, as FH was alluding to.

alex said...

"Obviously this isn't because the buildings are short, but rather because of the common superstitious fear of the number thirteen. "
Well, to be fair, nowadays it's probably not so much because of a 'common superstitious fear', but because of tradition.

alex said...

Speaking about numbers, this link discusses 666 in Kabbala:
ohr.edu/ask/ask277.htm

Mis-nagid said...

Read this:
13: The Story of the World's Most Popular Superstition

A fun read.

Kylopod said...

"This always struck me as rather amusing given that from a Jewish perspective 13 is actually a good number."

This always struck me as rather amusing given that it doesn't actually take away the thirteenth floor, it merely renames it as the fourteenth.

Baal Devarim said...

"while us Jews are ok with numbers"

Actually, there's an extensive demonology in the Talmud (and some later sources) connected with the fair of zugot (pairs). This apprehension sometimes extends to anything that comes in even numbers.

Can you imagine an elevator with all even-numbered floors missing? That would be...... odd.

Baal Devarim said...

"...fair of zugot"

Ugh. That should read 'fear'. To be fair, I fare much worse on Purim when I'm drunk. I even bumped into a fir, once.

Tigerboy said...

This discussion demonstrates how religion is about primitive foolishness. Fear of numbers? Give me a break.

The symbols that give me the "willies" are the Crescent Moon and Star, the Cross, and the Star of David.

Jewish Sceptic said...

That picture's rather amusing. Of course, I hear about this sort of thing all the time, but it's different when you see photographic evidence like this - makes it more satisfactorily absurd and laugh-worthy! Being afraid of numbers is a rather strange concept.

Then again, any kind of numbers have me shaking...no mind for math at all!

Orthoprax said...

BD,

True, I've heard of that. Not really an issue nowadays though.


Tiger,

Well, given how I don't believe any of these number issues have a particularly religious source, it's more a matter of human superstition than anything about religion per se.