On the day of the first lottery drawing, December 1, 1969, I was taking tests and interviewing for a place in the Rabbinical School of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. At the conclusion of a full day of testing and questioning, I headed directly for the airport for my return trip to my home in Madison, Wisconsin, where I was a senior at the University of Wisconsin. As a result, I had no chance to find out the results of the draft lottery in the hours following the drawing. So when I came off the plane in Madison, the first words out of my mouth to my father, who had come to pick me up, were, "So what’s my number?" To which my father responded: "What, no ‘Hello’? No ‘Thanks for picking me up’?" My response to him: "So what’s my number?" His reply: "Wouldn’t you like to know your brother’s number? (My brother, two years younger than I, was in ROTC on campus.) It’s 352." Of course, that number meant that he had no chance of being drafted. I remember thinking, "What does he need such a high number for? He’s in ROTC anyway," but I was still intent on getting past my father’s delaying tactics and getting to my number. "Dad, what’s my number?" And still he drew out the drama. "You know," he said, "that you were born at midnight, and the doctor asked your mother which day she wanted listed on the birth certificate. December 27th (the day my mother did not pick) is 26." "Good for my mother," I thought. "And the 26th?" I pleaded. "Well, the number for the 26th happens to be…173." Which, according to the scuttlebutt, meant that I had a 50/50 chance to be drafted when I graduated that spring. (As it happened, they did not get past 125 that year, but who knew?)
As a result of my draft number, and not wishing to chance the odds of being drafted, I turned down offers to enter grad school in Psych, which would have made my draft status 1-A, and accepted the offer to enter Rabbinical School, which gave me a 2-S deferment. And while I might have gone to Rabbinical School in the end anyway, I was leaning towards grad school at the time. There is every possibility that the chance of being drafted for that stupid war determined my choice of profession and therefore the entire course of my life. I have been quite happy and content with that life, but who knows about the road not taken?