June 19, 2024
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June 19, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

In their family, Oscar and Oliver Oppenheimer were known as the “Blackout Boys.” These nicknames originated from the night they were born. Oscar and Oliver were twins, but nobody knew who was older, as they were born in a pitch-black room during a blackout. Knowing who was older didn’t really matter; all their parents cared about was having two healthy baby boys. It’s not as if Oscar and Oliver weren’t constantly trying to prove who was older; that was an ongoing joke. “I’m older because I always wake up first on our birthday!” “See this birthmark on my ear? It’s called a ‘first-born spot.’ Don’t believe me? Google it!” The claims got more and more absurd as the boys got older. But each one knew that it didn’t matter who the bechor was…well, until this happened:

Oscar and Oliver’s parents owned and ran a thriving family business, Olivia and Orlando’s Outrageous Overcoats. The company did exactly as it sounds: They manufactured and sold unique coats for people of all ages. Outrageous Overcoats were considered top-of-the-line when it came to fashion and comfort. Despite the joys and profits of running the business, the Oppenheimer parents were getting tired of all the work and wanted to pass the company on to the boys (they had no other children). As fashionable as their coats were, the Oppenheimers were ironically old-fashioned about many things, including family. This meant that they preferred their oldest child to take leadership of the company. The problem, of course, was that they didn’t know who to choose.

To solve this problem, Olivia and Orlando decided to run a competition to see which of their twins deserved the title of Blackout Boys Bechor. Making that decision was the easy part. Now the Oppenheimer parents had to figure out exactly what they were looking for in a first-born. So, one afternoon, Olivia and Orlando ordered onion omelettes and took them back to their oversized office at Outrageous Overcoats to discuss. To start, each parent spent 20 minutes alone making a list of personality traits they think their bechor should have. Afterwards, they compared lists, placed the items they had in common on the “definite” list, and discussed the items they did not yet agree upon.

Now came the challenging part. With their list in hand, Olivia and Orlando opened up a Chumash and began to read through the stories of the Avot to see if their list items matched the personality traits of Yitzchak, Yaakov and Yosef, the three sons who earned the bechor status (Yosef had two tribes come from him) without actually being the first-born son. Three hours later, maybe because they studied enough, or maybe because their stomachs were rumbling, Olivia and Orlando finalized their list and returned home to eat dinner and plan the competition.

Two weeks later, in honor of Parshat Toldot, Oscar and Oliver Oppenheimer spent an afternoon going through the most difficult and grueling tasks their parents could devise. Their bravery, honesty, dedication, strength, cleverness, faith and inner-strength were tested (both boys did well on all these). Additionally, the boys were tested on their abilities to wear lamb skins, interpret dreams, frame each other for stealing a magical goblet, get kidnapped and sold to Egypt, and agree to be sacrificed (they didn’t do as well on these parts).

When all was said and done, the competition was too close to call. Based on the score cards, Oliver had a tiny lead over Oscar. However, the margin wasn’t large enough to allow either parent to feel comfortable declaring a winner. Olivia and Orlando decided to tell the boys that they needed a night to think about it; they would announce their decision in the morning. Oscar was disappointed to have to wait, but he understood. “This is an important decision, so if that’s what you need, we can wait.” Oliver, on the other hand, was not interested. “Mom and Dad, we all know you can figure this out now! There’s never going to be a perfect answer anyway, so just choose now. Take a few minutes and let’s get this over with!”

Orlando opened his mouth to argue, but Olvia cut in. “You know what, Orlando? I think Oliver is right. Let’s sit down right now and figure this out.” Orlando’s mouth was still open, but now much wider. He was shocked that his wife, the most patient person he knew, would agree to this. How could she want to rush into this decision?! However, Orlando’s confusion was quickly cleared up when he sat down with Olivia to decide. “Orlando,” began Olivia, “Oliver just gave us the answer. We only searched for examples in the Torah of what a bechor should be. We also should have been paying attention to what a bechor should not be. And a huge one is impatient. In fact, Eisav lost his right to be the bechor due to his impatience. Oscar, even though he is losing by two points, must be declared the winner!”

At the beginning of Parshat Toldot we are treated to a bizarre decision of Eisav to give up the birthright for a pot of beans. What kind of crazy person does that? However, with a little thought, it becomes clear that this makes perfect sense. The idea of a bechor means having someone to carry on family traditions, to bridge the past and the future. This task requires the realization that life is not all about right now. A true bechor (Hashem calls Bnei Yisrael “My son, My bechor, Yisrael”) knows that it takes patience and careful thought to understand how to pass along Torah values. Eisav, only interested in his feelings at the moment, would have zero desire to take on this task, to be the bechor. We, as Hashem’s “first born,” must take this task seriously, paying careful attention to the messages we are sending our friends, family and the rest of the world.

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