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Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Accounting for my (Lapsed) Judaism

Debits on the left. Credits on the right
This post celebrates the 80th birthday of  Dick Asebrook. He teaches accounting at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. 

I guess I'm one of those secular Jews. Many factors are to blame, but none more so than my Bar Mitzvah itself. For me, the run-up to that great day in June of 1963 was nothing less than an Old Testament ordeal, given my growing teenage disinterest and  incompetence with  Hebrew. But I grunted it out. The payoff: reading  a portion from the Book of Numbers enumerating bulls, rams, sheep, and goats for distribution to the righteous. Sour grapes (mercifully not Manischewitz):
my friends got all the juicier portions like the Abraham/Isaac sacrificial showdown and the Red Sea beatdown. (I'm not doing well here with the Seventh Commandment--Thou Shall Not Covet.)

Here's some Book of Numbers bookkeeping:

Each half included 337,500 sheep and goats, 36,000 cattle, 30,500 donkeys, and 16,000 young women [Oy!]. From the half that belonged to the soldiers, Moses counted out 675 sheep and goats, 72 cattle, 61 donkeys, and 32 women [Oy Vey!] and gave them to Eleazar to be dedicated to the LORD. Then from the half that belonged to the people, Moses set aside one out of every 50 animals and women, as the LORD had said, and gave them to the Levites.

More Accounting Karma
Fast forward twenty years and I'd begun my forty-year vacation as a writer/editor at UMass Amherst's Isenberg School of Management. Call it chance; call it Divine punishment--more than half of my friends turned out to be accounting professors, most of them former CPAs. How could I resist their company? A
ccountants have more fun. Unlike other academics,  accounting professors, seldom talk accounting in social settings. That's because, Professor Asebrook remarks, they have better things to discuss.

Anderson Cooper Regrets
Earlier this year, I was perplexed to learn that Anderson Cooper, my favorite (non-Jewish) news anchor, had suffered from a chronic case of Bar Mitzvah envy. Anderson explained that during his wonder years, most of his friends were Jews and, forgive the verb, Bar Mitzvahed. Poor Anderson was the odd man out. My  advice to him: Be careful what you wish for.

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