Susie on Debbie

When learning Torah we often speak of the importance of Gamatria, the numerical equivalent of Hebrew letters and words. Gamatria provides pointers and signs of meaning in the text.

The word Chai = 18 . Eighteen was the number of years of my friendship with Debbie. I know it's a cliché but my life was richer with Debbie as my friend.

One of the many things we enjoyed over the years was our walks at Caulfield Park – Debbie would call me, or I her, and she would say cheekily “let’s meet on the inside of inside.”

The “inside of the inside” was the MIDDLE of the park. It also just so happened to be where the Caulfield Bowls Club is. The venue of Debbie’s future yom tov Drashes.

Debbie and I were very different: She had an international background, going to different schools around the world. In year 12 she was dux of her school. I, on the other hand, was born and raised in St. Kilda and went to Scopus all my school life and barely scraped through year 12. When she was into quantum physics, I was into Sufism. Even our dogs, were so very different. Walking in the park, there was Debbie with Gadget, a big boofy black Labrador and me with Zoe, a petite delicate apricot Poodle. But they looked out for each other those two dogs.

We also had our similarities: Debbie’s Hebrew name was Devorah Bat Chana. Mine is Chana Bat Rachel. Ok, maybe I am stretching a long bow here. Later Debbie was renamed by Rabbi Hoffman “Chaya Devorah” so I guess we had the chet in common.

Our names Debbie and Susie were so typical of our generation. Perhaps, in rebellion, we both named our daughters Orly years before we knew each other. Our sons David and Johnny were friends at school – Caulfield North Primary. And Benny, I am not leaving you out. You were there sometimes. In your stroller when we walked the park. You used to get grumpy at us because we were so caught up in conversation we didn't stop to let you play.

Debbie and I also learned Torah together. I was privy to hearing the Drash she would give over on Shabbat. But, truth be told, more often than not I would hear it after she gave it as I didn't make it to shule. We enjoyed learning from each other, laughing together and hearing each other’s views on life and love. Most of all we looked out for each other, as good friends do.

Last night after the minyan – I went looking out for her. Searching for meaning. The chochma, the coach mah as Mark spoke of at her funeral. Inside her room. I sat on the chair which I sat on when visiting Debbie over the last few months, on days she was too tired to get out of bed. Next to this chair was a little table with all sorts of books. Debbie loved poetry and there, lying on top was a little book of poetry by Wallace Stevens. I flicked through it and couldn’t find anything in there that spoke to me. Then, underneath, I found another little book of poems by Robert Frost. In here, I found this poem that Debbie used in one of her shiurim in this very room. And it spoke to me from that deep place.

The Secret Sits: “We dance round in a ring and suppose. But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.” 

If that wasn’t enough of a sign I glanced to the bottom of that page and saw it was page number 54. I didn’t think of the Gamatria for that at the time but I did know what it meant to me. Debbie and I were born on the same month September of the same year. This was our 54th year.

So, “let’s meet”... Debbie... “on the inside of the inside”... here tonight.



I was reminded later by Yvonne Fein that 54 is 3 x Chai. I thought about this for a while. Jewish mysticism teaches how and why three is a mystical number. A young Israeli man, Shai, then told me The Hebrew letters for 54 – Nun Daled translates to a word which means a type of travelling. Could Debbie and I be an aspect of that great divine play which Debbie often pointed to? Two opposites who meet to create something new: a strong and deep friendship travelling through time and space.


Posted on August 1, 2011 .