08 December 2011

Just when you think you are doing nothing...

So, first it was my hat...

...now it's his.

It was a simple gesture. The summer day was about as random as it could be hanging out at the Marks household. The kid (my second-eldest nephew Ryan) snags my University of Texas National Championship alternate orange hat with white trim (web image not found) and slips it over his floppy straight hair. So, he wears the hat. It looks good on him. Since it looks better on him, I just thought he could get more use out of it. Besides, I have a dozen or so hats all in the closet to remove from the rotation. No big whoop. He wears the hat all summer.

As he was set to depart back from the calm seas of Corpus Christi Bay to the constant chop of Parkland (even though that town is somewhat landlocked), he unconditionally handed it back not giving it another thought. Reflecting the thoughtful thoughtlessness, I said, "Keep it. Bring it back next year and I will take it back." It was a confusing thing to say to a 7 or 8 year-old. But it was essentially a "ah, hang on to it. I have plenty more hats where that came from" thought. He continues to wear the hat.

I didn't think it would result in a parable like this...

And now-now, it's a part of his coming-of-age story.

Here now is Ryan's speech (for lack of a better word) explaining his selection process for his reading of the Torah during his Bar Mitzvah. My apologies for the grammar and lack of punctuation as this is a copy of the actual transcript Ryan recited that day.

The name of the Torah portion is Chayei Sarah. My torah portion deals with two major subjects: death and Marriage. The story begins by announcing that Abraham's wife Sarah died at age 127. Then Abraham goes to the land of the Hittites, to find land to bury Sarah. I will talk more about this later, but I am going to tell you right now the most important message is that Abraham bought the first piece of Jewish land. After he buried Sarah, Abraham went onto his next task, to find a wife for his son Isaac. Abraham told his servant to go to the land of his birth to find a wife for Isaac and may only return if the woman he asks refuses to go. So his servant takes ten camels and goes on his journey. When he arrived in the city of Nahor, he needed water for himself and his camels. Then he prayed to God that if the girl he asked for water insisted on watering the camels, then she would be the one to marry Isaac. On his first first try a women named Rebekah offered to water all then camels. The servant then went to her house and told the story of his master telling him to go on this journey to find a wife for Isaac and how Rebekah watered his camels just like God said she would. Before the servant took Rebekah if she agreed to go on and marry Isaac. Rebekah obliged and returned with the servant to marry Isaac. After Isaac and Rebakah married, Abraham died at age 175 and was buried next to Sarah.

The part of this Torah portion that interests me the most is when Abraham insists on buying the piece of land for his wife, instead of Ephron, the landowner, giving the land to him as a gift. When Abraham first wen to the land of the Hittites and asked for land to bury his dead, all of them said to bury his dead without any payments. Abraham wasn't intending to bury his dead for free so, he replied to the people that he wanted to bury his dead at a fair market price. Ephron then told Abraham to bury his dead for just a little bit of money, but Abraham insists that he buy the land for a fair market price. Abraham took note of Ephron and heard him say the land was 400 shekels. So Abraham then measured and weighed his money, and publicly handed the money to Ephron. Once Abraham handed Ephrom the coins and Ephon accepted them, the deal was finished and Abraham now owned the very firest piced of Jewish land.

My Torah portion teaches us the importance of land to Jews and to stay loyal to your word. The first one I am going to talk about is the importance of staying loyal to your word. For example when Abraham bought a piece of land from Ephron he portrayed Chesed V'emet, which means to take are of the dead and to be loyal to your word. This is one of the most important promises because it is one promise that the person can't check, and is based on honor. Some ways to be loyal to your word is to do what you say and keep promises. By staying loyal to your word you build integrity and respect with your friends and family. Abraham kept his promise to his wife Sarah by buying the land from Ephron in her memory. Which brings me to my second point, the importance of land to Jews. Jews care about land very strongly because at one point we couldn't buy land for ourselves, and then when we escaped Egypt we were brought to the Promised Land brought to us by God. This is important because it shows we have a historical connection with the land of Israel. When Abraham bought the piece of land from Ephron it showed that Jews had overcome so much and had earned their freedom once and for all.

My Torah portion teaches me of keeping my word. For example my uncle gave me his hat from the University of Texas that he bought [from] the Rose Bowl, and he said I could keep it for a year and to keep good care of it. When I was going back home from Texas I made sure that I was wearing it and not to get it dirty. When I cam e back in about a year I remembered the hat and I brought it with me making sure it was in the best shape it could be in. When I got to my uncle I showed him the hat, and he was amazed that I kept my word. He was so impressed with me that he even let me keep the hat. Just like Israel created a bond with the Jews my hat created a bond between my uncle [and me]. As I become a Bar Mitzvah, I learn that I am accepting the responsibilities of a Jewish adult. Some examples of this are studying for my Bar Mitzvah, doing the dishes and cleaning my room.

I would like to thank my parents for helping me through the process of being a Bar Mitzvah and for all the things they do for me. Also, I would like to thank Fred Berkowitz for helpin gme learn all my Hebrew and making it fun. Lastly, I would like to thank Cantor Arnold and Rabbi Boxman for helping me find meaning and understand my Torah and haftorah. I would like to thank you all for coming here and remember to keep your word.

Just when you think a hat is a hat or a gesture is something simple or a whale is just a whale, someone--especially someone young--completely changes your perspective. By the by, he still wears the hat. It's in the same relative condition that I gave it to him almost six years ago.

Lessons Learned, my three things (for this particular event):
1) Never forget that kids are sponges...with the good and the bad.
2) If you have over a dozen of any one single item, that is plenty. May want to share the wealth.
3) There is nothing wrong with being surprised once in a while. Even for a guy that hates surprises, it's not a bad thing...in very limited moderation.

I am on the backlog chronicling all the series of events that has given Hell Month a run for it's money. Next time, it's been two years...TWO YEARS...of this DFW life. I wonder what has remained the same? Talk later.


  1. You are a great Uncle. x

  2. Billy Alexander20 August, 2013 09:03

    Reading this a little late, but its the best story i've read in a long time. Good thoughts to you and yours Daniel.