Style number 613I hate gematria, the assignment of various number values to Hebrew letters, usually in the service of creating an additional layer of meaning to a biblical text or situation. As far as I’m concerned, what’s most offensive about gematria is that it’s clearly a plot to integrate math and Hebrew language. But every once in a while something comes along that makes you go hmmm….

So there I was, minding my own business, trying to go to sleep early after a week of late-night rendezvouses (let’s just call them Jewlicious East Coast Shareholders Meetings). And that’s when the call came from my parents, giving me this gem of a story. I knew I couldn’t let it sit there overnight or one of the boys would get to it, and I wanted to make sure that the story was done right, told in the most dramatic way possible.

To further set the scene, allow me to share with you the irony that I had just turned off “Big Love,” the HBO show about polygamy, and flipped to “The Girls Next Door,” the reality show about what it’s like to be one of Hef’s live-in girlfriends. On this show, the girls battle for Hef’s time and to be queen of the henhouse. So to speak.

And now, the story you’ve all been waiting for. Playboy has reached the ripe age of 50. To capitalize on celebrate this glorious Jubilee event, the magazine proudly presents a new book cleverly called “The Playmate Book: Six Decades of Centerfolds.รขโ‚ฌย I’m sure people will buy it for the articles. (Note for those who worry about such things…this link to the publisher’s info page about the book includes nudity.)

And do you know how many centerfolds six decades provides?

613.

What’s that? Haven’t we heard that number somewhere before? Why yes, yes you have. 613 is the number of mitzvot in the Torah.

613 mitzvot–248 positive imperative commandments (“must-do’s”) and 365 negative commandments (“definite don’t’s”). 613 centerfolds. (No word on how many of them are positive centerfolds and how many of them are negative centerfolds. Or how many of them you should or shouldn’t do.)

And yes, this story is totally serious. It’s from the New Yorker, which we all know has zero sense of humor unless it’s in the Shouts & Murmurs section, which this story isn’t. And it’s the week after Purim, so this ain’t no shpiel, kids.

Let me ask you a few final questions in parting. Should we worry that this book seems to have been published by a house named…Taschen? (As in…Haman…??) And does this prove that said book, and by extension, Playboy centerfolds are treyf? Or does it prove that they are kosher?

And as one of two Jewlicious contributors with a birthday of 6/13, should I be worried about something?

And yes, I’m petrified to see what kind of photo “site admin” teams with this story…

About the author

Esther Kustanowitz

For more posts by Esther, see EstherK.com, MyUrbanKvetch.com and JDatersAnonymous.com.

26 Comments

  • This article should just be somehow appended to muffti’s. It is another evidence of Jews in pornography. (Oh and by the way 613 mitzvot isn’t technically gematria since it isn’t an explanation of an idea using the numerical value of a hebrew word. Also, if you want a better opinion of gematria in general I would try reading some Abraham Abulafia.)

  • Egads, Esther! I think you’re on to something! Perhaps there’s a Chabad or Kabbalah connection (although try as I did, I couldn’t find anything on google linking Hugh and Chabad. However, the area code for Playboy corporate offices is “770”. Coincidence?)… Or perhaps a some Jewish rubbed off on Hugh’s little girl and future Playboy head honcho, Christie, when she was learnin’ at Brandeis?

  • 50 = 5 decades, not 6. Am I missing something?
    love, your favorite math geek.
    (And fwiw, I never liked gematria — because I can’t spell in Hebrew.)

  • incidentally, i think “Big Love” is a huge disappointment. it’s kind of sucking already. Bill Paxton is creepy.

  • annabel lee,

    50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s= 6 decades in which pb has published. This is the kind of word problem that haunted me in the tryouts for mathletes. Is there any hope for those who fail at being both mathlete and playmate? sadly, it’s called law school…

  • I don’t like this math thing. By Playboy’s math, I’m already 35. Stupid math.

    Judi, the 770 thing…unbelievable. And a Brandeis connection? Amazing. The “coincidences” keep piling up…

  • There’s a lot of sex-related talk on Jewlicious lately.

    So, wait does this numerical connection mean we can expect the
    “Beauties of the Charedi Seminaries: Girls Gone Tznius”
    of the magazine to come out anytime soon?
    Probably not I guess. Oh well.

  • i had high hopes for Big Love. HBO has rarely disappointed me in the past. however, aside from Ginnifer Goodwin and Jeanne Tripplehorn, who are always excellent, i’m not loving it. and the latest HBO movie, Walkout, was really boring and didn’t do justice to the subject matter.

  • I mildly enjoyed Big Love. I am hoping that they’ll build up some kind of supernatural undertones with the Prophet, because I’m always into that kind of weirdness. I guess I’m just looking for another Carnivale ๐Ÿ˜› But I do like it so far, if it is a bit slow.

  • I wonder whether the show is offensive to Mormons. How would we view a show where Shmulik has a first wife and two concubines, with a brood of 17 kids running around?

  • i’m sure if you’re interested, there’s at least one Mormon response to the show somewhere on the net. they do have that disclaimer at the end, though, and for all my disappointment with it, i think the show handles the issues delicately and sensitively. it’s definitely not oversimplified.

  • It is a ton of fun to snuggle up, and read, Michael Crichton, for instance.

    WC Fields said “he did not hold with furniture that talks” and I agree.

    It’s just not LIKE that. Life, I mean.

    The whole thing is just so phony. How can people stomach it?

    It is NOT a safe universe. It is much more dangerous than the real universe which we are all walking around in, which is, in fact, being handled pretty well by us, on a routine basis.

    If you like natural foods and fabrics, how can you endure television?

    Just sayin’. It’s a free country.

  • Some people think the public is being softened up to not mind polygamy.

    On behalf of another group, not the Mormons at all.

    I dunno.

    Yeah, we like warm blood, within marriage. Let’s have 613 weddings. When is the beach free, at sunset? With bare feet, and little candles on the tables? Moshe took his shoes off…

    Don’t forget the mantilla.

  • Esther, talking about playmates is almost like reazding playboy for the articles. Playmates are meant to be seen, maybe fondled if you get so lucky, but not talked about. Thus sayeth the Muffti.

  • i could go on a rant about how the images in these magazines are photoshopped distortions of rare and not so realistic human forms, all of which are facades anyway, so what you’re really seeing is the illusion of an illusion. But I won’t do that. You guys probably know that those pictures are fantasy art and not anywhere near realism, and that by their being portrayed as real they cast in men the idea of ideal human form and women in turn feel societal pressure to conform to this ideal which is both almost always unattainable and completely superficial, thus creating a society obessesed with outward appearance.
    So there’s no need for me to lecture, since you already know all that.

    ( =

  • 613 mitzvot is not gematria (I don’t think) as Maimonides compiled the list, its not exactly laid out in Torah like that. There were many other enumerations before and after his work. However, in complete contradiction of myself: The gematria of ร—ยชร—โ€ขร—ยจร—โ€ (Torah)is 611. But if we remember, when Moses transmited the Torah to us, two commandments came directly from HaShem. So, adding those, you come up with 613. So, I guess, technically, it is gematria.

    Ok, this had absolutely nothing to do with the article. I just didn’t have anything useful to say about Playmates.

  • Photo shooooop

    Back in the old days, there was a song, “I wanna be aaaairbrushed…..”

    old technology

    artificial scarcity wins every time.

    people don’t value what they don’t have to pay for, and work for. Especially male type people, bless them. Ask any zookeeper.

    you don’t have to impress your mommy and your friends…… you have to impress yourself.

    you don’t have to be beautiful, you have to make people THINK you are, and, you have to live as if you WERE. It’s how you carry yourself.

    But you knew that.

  • Uh, can’t really comment on the metaphysical math but, well, there’s some truth to the whole “I read it for the articles” thing. Honest. Back in the early years of Playboy they were paying twice the per word rate for fiction than any other magazine. Ginsberg was a contributor, Kerouac often wrote for them and Shel Silverstein did many comics. Yup, naked flesh sold the magazines but some of that profit was funneled back into getting great writers.

  • I have to agree with Coelcanth. There was some pretty good content in there. Some of the interviews were truly exceptional, as were some of the articles and stories.

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