I turned 40. 

This is not something I set out to do.  No one asked me.  It kind of just happened.  In fact, a bunch of things kind of just happen to you when you get to 40.

Hazy memory – My memory is not gone.  I’m at the age where I don’t totally forget things; I have vague recollections of things that come back to me as soon as I’m reminded.  Like I’ll ask my wife why we’re doing a certain thing, and she’ll say, “Well, because of this,” and I’ll say, “Oh yeah; that’s right.  Now I remember.”  And I’m not remembering because of what she’s saying; her saying it is just triggering my own memories, and now I remember all of it, and she’s still talking for some reason.  And I when I point this out, she says, “Great.  I have to remember for you, and then you remember?”  But that’s why you get married.  And then she saves this story in her memory, so she can pull it out during a heated discussion. 

Stretching -- I also find that I have to stretch when I wake up in the morning.  For a while.  I’m thinking of getting one of those bed stretchers that they had in Sodom.  I have to wake up a little earlier to stretch every day, when I’m still tired, so I fall back asleep stretching.  And then when I wake up from that, I have to stretch differently.  Whatever position I sleep in, my body says, “I guess this is the position we’re going to stand in from now on.”  Yes, my body talks to itself.  At least I think that’s what those noises are.

Random pains – If something hurts for more than a day, I think, “I guess this is always going to hurt now.”  Then, when it goes away, I don’t think, “Huh. I guess I was wrong.”  I just forget that it ever hurt.  That’s the upside of the memory thing, I guess.  Until my wife asks, “Hey, how is that thing that was hurting you?” And I say, “That’s right.” 

For example, for a while there, my right knee hurt when I stood up from my desk until after I walked funny for a minute or two.  But then it stopped, and I don’t know when.  I only remember this at all because I’m just now reminding myself.  There was no event to start it and no event to stop it.  It’s like I ran out the warranty.  If you can point to some event when you hurt yourself, you can say, “Alright; so I just have to do the opposite of that for a little while, and I’ll feel better.”  If you wake up and your foot hurts and you don’t know why, you say, “What did I do last night?  The only thing I did was get older.  Should I do the opposite of that?” 

Sleeping wrong – And yes, sometimes I hurt myself sleeping.  And I have to tell people, “Oh, I slept wrong,” so they don’t just think that’s how I walk now.  I slept just fine the first 30-something years of my life; all of a sudden now I’m making mistakes.  I don’t even sleep that long.  So sometimes I wake up and I think, “That hurts.  Maybe if I go back to sleep, I’ll wake up feeling okay.  Let’s roll the dice again.”  But it doesn’t work.  And now I have to turn my whole body to look at you for the next week.  And the whole week, I have to think, “Is this always how it’s gonna be?” 

“Sorry, I slept weird.” 

“How weird did you sleep?” 

“I don’t know; I thought it was pretty normal.” 

It’s not like I fell asleep with the lower half of my body still in bed but my head on the floor behind my bed.  (“I just followed the yarmulke, I guess.”) 

If somebody says, “I slept wrong,” I always picture them falling asleep with one foot behind their head. 

“I was doing yoga and I fell asleep.  I don’t know what happened.” 

“Did you try stretching?” 

“I fell asleep stretching.”

Hairy surprises -- I’m also at a point in my life where everyone has to, one at a time, let me know that my hair is turning grey.  And they’re always surprised.  Like, “Whoa!  Your hair is turning grey!”  In case I’ve forgotten.  It’s always people younger than me, but there seems to be an increasing number of those every day.  No one’s being born who’s older than me.  But I’m so glad that I’m going grey instead of bald, because otherwise all these people would say, “Whoa!  You’re really going bald!”  But on the bright side I am getting hair in new and exciting places.  I have hair on my shoulders now.  The first time I saw that, I thought it had just fallen off my head.  I tried to pick it up, and, “Ouch!  Nope.  That’s attached.”  And I didn’t know whether to be relieved or horrified.  I also recently, at the behest of my wife, had to buy a nose-hair trimmer, so I could have trimmer nose hairs I guess.  It looked like a spider was trying to crawl out of my brain.  I didn’t ask a shaver shaylah about that one, though.  I don’t know if I was supposed to.  But at least my facial hair isn’t finished growing in.  I’ve been waiting for that since my bar mitzvah.

Back pain -- obviously.  I manage it, but everything I do, I wonder what it will do to my back.  Putting on socks in the morning is impossible too.  I have to get both hands past my toes in a coordinated fashion.  I have no idea how I do it.  Half my daily stretching is just to be able to do that.  They make slip-on shoes; why are there no slip-on socks?  I can’t sit for too long either, because it will hurt my back.  So about once every hour I get up and I hobble around on my knee so that my back will feel better.

But wait!  There’s more!

- I also make a verbal noise when I sit down or stand up.  Not every time, though.  I think just in front of people.

- I’m always worried about keeping my weight reasonable.  It takes an enormous amount of work and movement and quietly feeling guilty about everything I eat all to just look slightly fat.

- Also, the days run together.  I was talking to a contractor about an estimate he gave me a few months earlier, and he said, “That was a year and a half ago.  The date is on the estimate.”  And I said, “Yeah, I remember.”  I’m also pretty sure the 90s were like ten years ago.

I’ve also just realized that I’m older than every horse.  I’ve been older for a long time, I guess, but I don’t really notice age on horses that much.  I can try to guess their age, but I’m usually way off. 


But there are good things about turning 40 too.  For one, I hear it’s a special number.  The number 40 comes up a lot in the Torah and in Shas, to the point where some meforshim say that sometimes the number 40 is just shorthand for “a whole lot.”  So that’s not disheartening.

But also, for example, I’m starting to know what I like.  I have a favorite burner on the stove, a favorite reusable shopping bag, a favorite spatula, and I get excited when new stores are built near other stores that I go to.  Also, my wife and I now have Advil in 4 different places in the house, and my kids all know that when we ask for Advil, we mean ibuprofen.  I also have enough life experience to tell you what letter comes before what without singing the alphabet in my head.  See, alef bais is easy because of gematrios, but with the alphabet, you’re okay up to like J, but you have no idea what comes first – O or Q – without singing that song you learned in kindergarten.  I can tell you, though: It’s O.  The secret is just memorizing “LMNOP”.  It’s five letters thrown at you too fast to understand it, for the sake of poetic meter.  But if a letter is not part of that pile, I can say for certain whether it comes before or after it.

And best of all, there’s the wisdom – I can’t wait to get that.  That’s a Mishna, right?  40 years for wisdom?  Okay, I’m looking it up, and… Ok, so it turns out that when I’m 40, I get binah.  Great.  I barely read Hamodia.  My wife will love it though.  Though she’s not 40, so I may have to hold onto them for her until CENSORED BY HIS WIFE. 

Wait.  Why does Binah have a kid’s section? 

And then when do we get chochma?  It doesn’t seem to be in the Mishna.  What’s the difference between chochma and binah?  Doesn’t binah mean I’d understand the difference by now?  I’m not holding my breath about this binah anyway, because the Mishna promised me koach at age 30, and that didn’t happen.  I get out of breath even thinking about koach

- I get out of breath even thinking about koach.

Another great thing about turning 40 is that I understand that I’m finally going to be allowed to learn kabbalah.  So stay tuned for some really weird articles coming up.

Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia, a monthly humor columnist, and has written six books, all published by Israel Book Shop.  He also does freelance writing for hire.  You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.