Achrei Mot/Kedoshim: Skateboarding Lessons
Vayikra: 16: 30, 19: 1-15
“We are in so much trouble.”
“I know. We are dead. Totally dead.”
“I can’t even believe that just happened.”
“How did we crash and burn so fast?”
“Still, you have to admit, Dad has a lot more moves than we thought he did.”
“Ain’t that the truth. He really had it going on. That is, until the end.”
“Yeah. His last move wasn’t so sweet.”
Zachary and Jeremy Adler sat on their beds and contemplated their fate. The evening had started out so innocently for the 14-year-old twins, and now all was in ruins. If only they had listened when their father spoke.
“Zach, Jerm, go outside and clean up the stuff you left on the driveway.”
“Sure, Dad, we’ll be right out,” Zachary said. But he was so involved in the television show he was watching, he forgot to get moving. And Jeremy was so entranced, he didn’t even look up.
The next thing they knew their father was walking down the driveway and looking up at a bird, a plane, a meteor, or something up in the sky when he should have been looking down. He didn’t even see the skateboard when he stepped on it.
According to Zachary and Jeremy’s older brother Zeke, the next minute would go down in family history. Their father, still in his suit and tie from work (a charcoal pinstripe with a blue Jerry Garcia print), accidentally stepped on the deck of the skateboard and started coasting down the driveway. He pulled a tic tac at the top of the slope and then performed a 180 degree pop-shove-it to avoid the minivan. He tried something like a kick turn halfway down the asphalt and picked up speed on the downhill. When their father got to the street he hit an acid drop off the curb, and with what can best be described as a kick/heelflip, he caught some air and finished with an Ollie Impossible. He still had a chance to bail gracefully, but instead he zonked on his right leg and lay in the street, inert, before he rolled over and started groaning. Wipe out.
Their mothers’ scream pulled Zachary and Jeremy away from the television, and as she rushed their father into the minivan to drive him to the emergency room, all he could say to his two youngest sons was:
“Words fail me.”
Now they sat on their beds, waiting for their parents to return from the hospital so they could face the music.
“You know, it’s amazing how many aveirot we committed in such a short period of time,” Zachary said.
“I know. And they’re all in one aliyah of our bar mitzvah parsha,” Jeremy said.
“What do you mean?”
“If you look at the first aliyah of Parshat Kedoshim, there’s a laundry list of all the violations we committed.”
Jeremy leaned over, pulled a chumash from his bookcase, and opened it to Kedoshim. Zachary sat down next to him to follow along.
“The aliyah starts with honoring one’s parents, and we clearly didn’t do that.”
“Yes,” Zachary agreed. “Then there’s lifnei iver lo titein michshol, not to put a stumbling block in front of a blindman, and if leaving a skateboard in the driveway where a space cadet like Dad could find it isn’t a violation of that law, I don’t know what is.”
“Then we told Dad we’d go right out and clean up the driveway, and we didn’t. I’d have to say that’s lo teshakru, don’t lie.”
“And we were watching American Idol instead of helping Dad,” Zachary noted. “That violates Al tifnu el ha-elilim, Idol worship.
Zach tried to keep a straight face, but Jeremy punched him on the shoulder, and they both burst out laughing.
“This is so not funny,” Jeremy said. “We really did it this time.”
“I’m quite aware.”
The minivan pulled into the driveway, and the boys looked out the window to watch their mother open the driver’s side door, cross to the other side, and let their father out of the front passenger seat. He had a large cast on his right leg, and he hadn’t yet mastered his crutches. If he fell in the driveway again, that would be what skateboarders call a “twofer.” But though it probably went through the minds of both twins, neither was brave enough to say it.
The amount of time it took their father to come into the house, mount the stairs, and reach their room on his crutches was interminable. Each boy could feel his heart pounding in his chest as the sound of the crutches on the floor approached their room.
The door swung open, and their father came in, still in his suit jacket and tie, but now in scrub pants and a tasteful blue cast. He sat down in a chair, looked at his boys, and sighed.
“Hi, Dad. How are you feeling?” Zachary asked.
“It pretty much stopped hurting once they put the cast on.”
“That’s good,” Jeremy said. “We’re really, really, really sorry.”
“Really sorry,” Zachary echoed.
“I’m sure you are,” their father said. “On the way home from the hospital, I was contemplating various punishments for you guys. Grounded for life was one option. And the Valley Forge Miltary Academy kept popping into my mind. I was thinking about the mitzvah of kibbud av ve-eim that comes up in Kedoshim, this week’s parsha.”
“We know, Dad. We were thinking about it too,” Zachary said.
“But then your mother pointed out to me that this week is also the parsha of Acharei Mot. And in that parsha, the Tabernacle and Temple service of Yom Kippur is taught. And it says there ki bayom hazeh yechaper aleichem letaheir etchem mikol chatoteichem. Lifnei Hashem titharu. For on this day he shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins; before Hashem you shall be cleansed. Not only does G-d forgive the Jews for their sins, but he makes them tahor, pure, from sin. Do you see my point?”
“Sure,” Zachary said.
“Not really,” Jeremy admitted. Neither brother was sure what answer their father was looking for.
“As your mother so astutely pointed out, clearly you didn’t mean to break my leg—in two places, I might add. So we’re going to start with a clean slate, just like G-d gives the Jews every year. No hard feelings. And hopefully, you’ll try harder next time.”
“Wow, Dad. You’re amazing,” Jeremy said.
“Thanks,” their father said. “And when I say we’re starting with a clean slate, I mean it. Because each of you have to clean every dish from every meal in this house for an entire month.”
“What happened to the kapparah and the taharah?” Zachary asked.
“You’re forgiven. But even the Jews have to actively repent in order to receive absolution. Consider this your teshuva.”
“Fair enough,” Jeremy said.
“And Dad?” Zachary said. “Zeke said you were totally amazing on the skateboard. He said that, except for when you landed that acid drop at the end and wiped out, that you were stoked and totally sick.”
“Thanks, guys. I’ll assume that was a compliment. At least now I understand why I never let you skateboard without a brain bucket.”
“A skid lid. You know, a helmet.”
“Get with the program.”
Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.
By Larry Stiefel