When one plus 1 = 1

There’s this thing in Judaism called gematria, which, put simply, is a system that assigns numerical value to words or phrases with the belief that words or phrases with identical numerical values bear some relation to each other, or bear some relation to the number itself.

For example, the word for abuse in Hebrew is ”התעללות”. If you break down the word, assign each letter the equivalence of its numerical value and add it all together, the sum of the word התעללות would equal to 941. In the world of gematria, 941 would either have to signify something related to התעללות, or be the equivalent sum of other phrases or words that are related to התעללות. So we could, I don’t know, take the word “הכחשה” which means denial (338) then add the word “קהילה” — community (150). 338 + 150 = 488. If you subtract the number 488 from our original 941, you are left with 453. Now let’s subtract 2 — one for victim and one for perpetrator — and we are left with 451. 451 just happens to be the numerical value of the word “תמוה” which means strange, or “something which doesn’t have an explanation.”

See what I did there?

Gematria is supposed to provide conclusive evidence of the Torah’s Divine authorship, as the Hebrew letters are the foundation of the world, and Torah is its blueprint. Gematria could be simple and it could be intricate, depending on how much you bullshit your way through it, and on how many risks you’re willing to take, like putting together a 10,000-piece puzzle without remembering if you ever found those eight missing pieces.

When I was younger, I tried it, too. I was never particularly great with numbers, but I did pretty good with words, and gematria, after all, is about both. I remember thinking in like the fifth grade that I had figured out the big mystery of the parah adumah, that big unanswered question that the Torah says is a chok, a commandment that we will never understand. It was easy, really. I added some letters, multiplied it by others, and boom! I had solved the mystery.

Years later, I’d realize that the only reason I could solve the mystery is because I had the words.

When you don’t have the words, all you have left are numbers.

And when you love a man who only loves himself, you learn to think in numbers.

1 + 1 = 1: Him + you = him. Always. Well, almost always. Sometimes, he uses words instead of screams, and those words can be nice and kind and romantic and lovely. But if he’s using words and you’re using numbers… then is he > you? Because words > numbers. And… wait, is it math if the equation includes words + numbers? Or is it just an invalid equation? How many times can he humiliate you before you stop flinching? How many fractions can your heart be broken into*? (*Broken into: like a thief who stalks shadows in the night and studies who comes, who goes, who’s been broken into before, then storms his way in, shattering everything in his wake, even the innocent. Especially the innocent.)

What side of the equation do your children belong on, his or yours? What side of the equation do you belong on, his or yours? Is it an equation at all if there is only one factor, and never yours? Are the two of you one, as in ½ + ½ = 1, or are the two of you one, as in 1 + 1 = 1? Because if 1 + 1 = 1, then math is wrong, and math can never be wrong. Unless it’s wrong enough, like two negatives being positive. Can your (always) wrong make him (always) right? If math is never wrong and now it is, what else is never wrong and now it is? If even math is wrong, then nothing makes sense and nothing, NOTHING, will ever be okay.

God, abuse can be so confusing.

Unless it’s you, not the math. You’re just doing the math wrong, cause you’re stupid, just a stupid little bitch, and you were never really good at math anyway.

Loving a man who spins you ’round and ’round means that there is no language, there are no words. If you had one, you’d have figured him out long ago.

52 bouquets of flowers a year x 5 years = 260 weeks of blossoms and death.

1 year — 5 friends lost because he didn’t like what they said = ? (In abuse, there is always a missing solution.)

3 days of romance > 1 bad day, because 3, after all, is > 1.

3 good days > 1 bad day

2 good days > 1 bad day

1 good day > 1 bad day

1 good day = 1 bad day

1 good day > 3 bad days

1 good day > 5 bad days

Eventually all you need to hold on to what’s left (0, there’s 0 left) is 1 good day. Even when there are hundreds of fights. A thousand I’m sorrys. Millions of tears.

2 years together + 5 years of marriage = 7 years of denial.

Seven years.

In Judaism, the number 7 is holy. Shabbos. Shiva. 7 yomim tovim. 7 aliyot to the Torah. 7 times around him under the chuppah.

But the number 8 in Judaism — well. Eight is transcendent. In kabbalistic teachings, 8 symbolizes a level higher than 7, the epitome of spirituality and rising above nature.

7 is a holy number. But 8 is metaphysical. And when the smoke cleared and we were finally done, I learned that, after 7 years of numbers, I could still, at 8, find the words.

About the Author
Shaindy Urman is a freelance writer and full-time mom living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has appeared in Tablet, The Forward, Kveller, and Romper.