Once, in the town of Washington Township, there lived a man who had too many gray sweaters.
How it all began is hard to nail down. Gray was not his favorite color. That would be downright gloomy. Maybe it happened when he was in college. While he was at Rutgers in the 1990s, grunge was in. If you weren’t wearing black, gray or some shade in between, you were a square.
But that wasn’t it.
Gray was autumnal. When the weather started to get nippy, he just wanted to be ensconced in gray. Why is that so hard to understand?
And not just any gray sweater, mind you. It had to be a J. Crew lambswool sweater. Once he put his first one on, that was it. There could be no substitute. He was content. It was so soft, so thick, so wooly. Let summer end. Let the mercury in the thermometer drop. He was ready. Heck, he was more than ready. He was psyched.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. So let the man have a few gray sweaters! What’s the big deal? Well, if you saw his closet, you would understand. There were two giant stacks of them. There is an entire flock of freezing sheared sheep thanks to this obsessive man. I mean, sometimes enough is enough!
But I digress.
His wife tried to reason with him.
“Honey, be reasonable! Do you really need this many? Can you honestly tell me the difference between this one and that one?” she said, pulling two seemingly identical sweaters from the shelf.
“Why these two sweaters don’t look the same at all,” the gray -sweatered man exclaimed. “ This one has more of a heather tone, while that one is more smokey.”
“And what about the one you have on?” his wife challenged him. “Is that different, too?”
“Surely you jest!” he exclaimed. “Can’t you see the shades of ash in the wool? And besides, each of these has a special significance to me.”
“Oh? Please elucidate,” his wife interjected.
“This sweater is the one I had on when I took my test to become a CPA. That one is the one I wore when Jenny was born. And the one I am presently wearing was the sweater I proposed to you in.”
“Wow,” his wife said. “How do you remember that?”
“How do you not?” the man challenged her.
And the gray-sweatered man’s wife was silenced.
The man’s daughter, Jenny, had overheard the conversation from the next room. She has her own sweater issues, though she was more enamored with camel than gray, but she knew when to call it quits. And she knew how to reach her father.
“You know, Dad, I’ve been studying this week’s parsha.”
“Good for you, honey! What parsha is that?”
“Shoftim. And do you know what’s in this week’s parsha?”
“Shoftim talks about the laws of choosing a king for Israel. The Torah states that you can only choose a king who God selects. And he can’t be a foreigner. And he can’t have too many wives. And do you know what else the king can’t have?”
“No, what, honey?”
“He can’t have too many horses. Do you know why?”
“Isn’t it something about not going back to Egypt to get more horses, because we’re not supposed to go back there?”
“Well, that’s part of it, but I think the true point of the horse rule is moderation. A Jewish king had to represent Jewish values, and that would mean elevating the laws of the Torah and going light on the number of wives, and sweaters and horses.”
“What did you say?”
“I said a Jewish king has to take it easy on the number of wives and horses. Because he should be modest in his ways, and obedient of the laws and subservient to the wooly will of his maker.”
“What did you say?”
“I said that moderation is the key to being a Jewish king, and the key to being a Jewish mensch as well. Know what I mean?”
“I think I do,” the gray-sweatered man said. “That’s quite a yarn you spun, Jenny.”
His daughter nodded politely in response. No one was pulling the wool over her eyes.
And so, the gray-sweatered man ordered no more sweaters that season. That is, not until the two-for-one sale occurred when the spring catalog came out.
One has to be reasonable, after all.
Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.