The Jewish people have a numerology custom of assigning a numerical value to each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. So the first letter, aleph equals 1. The second letter, bet equals 2, etc… The numerology custom sometimes also adds meaning to these numbers. The word Chai (not the word for Indian tea, but pronounced with the guttural ch), is spelled חַי means “life.” For many Jewish people, it is customary to give monetary gifts in multiples of 18, for birthdays, Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, or other special occasions, to add extra meaning to the gift. Accordingly giving gifts of $36 symbolizes a wish for the person to have a “double life.”
Today is my wife Sheryl and my 36th anniversary, and although I do not generally ascribe deep meaning to Hebrew numerology, the Jewish double חַי tradition is so powerful that I have given a lot of thought to what it means for me now that Sheryl and I have been married for 36 years.
My first inclination was to give Sheryl a double חַי gift today, and I was fortunate to find these handmade earrings from an Israeli artist which have ancient Roman glass inserted into each silver חַי.
But gifts are just symbols if they do not carry real meaning from the giver to the recipient. Fortunately, in our case, I can confidently say that marrying Sheryl has been the best decision I have made in my life. As we complete our 36th year of marriage, I realize that for me the meaning of double חַי/life is not that we will live twice as long, but that we enhance each other’s lives to give each other twice the meaning and value in our lives compared to how our life might be if we had not joined together in marriage.
Marrying Sheryl has simply made me a better person. While I can always improve myself, I know that I listen better, have more patience, and I am willing to compromise for a greater good in our relationship because of my marriage to Sheryl. I have also learned that timing is critical to communications. I have learned that finding the right time to express my feelings to Sheryl is far better than simply getting those feelings off my chest. I have also learned to that when Sheryl has something critical to say to me, I need to avoid getting defensive, and try to figure out how I can improve my behavior so our relationship continues to grow and improve.
Sheryl and I have accomplished many great things in our careers. We have also raised Josh, our accomplished young adult son of whom we are very proud. We work together to maintain good relations with many friends and family all over the country and indeed, the world. While we certainly have our individual relationships, these relationships are enhanced because we share our family and friendships with each other.
For all of these reasons, and many more, Sheryl and I truly give each other a double life/חַי for which I am eternally grateful and look forward to many years together to continue to grow, love and cherish each other, so we can continue to enhance and double each others lives.
May we continue to hold each other close and double each other’s lives through all of life’s adventures.
For more information on how I can help you accomplish effective, progressive systems change contact Jeff Spitzer-Resnick by visiting his website: Systems Change Consulting.