Sunday, September 25, 2016

Nitzavim: The Talmud Society of Galaxy Andromeda M31

Nitzavim

By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

You stand this day, all of you, before the LORD your GOD—every man and woman of Israel…from the woodcutters to the water-drawers—to enter into the Covenant with the LORD your GOD…. And not with you alone do I enact this Covenant, with those who are standing with us this day, but also with those [future and past generations of Israelites] who are not standing with us this day…to study this Torah, and to perform it.
                                                    --Deut. 29:9-14 (translation mine)

A Report from Warsaw, Poland, during World War I:

There were a great many wagons and coaches parked, but with no drivers in sight. …A young Jewish boy showed me…to the shtibl (prayerhouse) of the Jewish wagon-drivers (Yiddish, balagoolas). [There were] two rooms: one filled with Talmud volumes, the other a room for prayer. All the drivers were engaged in fervent study and religious discussion…I found out…that all professions, the bakers, the butchers, the shoemakers, etc., have their own shtibl in the Jewish district, and every free moment [they can take] off from their work is given to the study of the Torah. And when they get together in intimate groups, one urges the other: ‘Zog mir ah shtickl Torah—Tell me a little Torah.’

Chabad House at Stanford University, Retrieved from https://www.chabadstanford.org/article.htm?Torah-Study-70

The Talmud-Study Society of Galaxy Andromeda M31

Sept. 25, 2736—22 Elul, 6502

            As NASA Space Flight Engineer Mordechai Kahn eased through the passway of USS Space Cruiser Ticonderoga IV, its airlock doors hissed behind him. He was careful to touch and kiss the mezuzah that NASA Space Regulations (Section XXIII, Subset 432, Lines 6-9) required of all Jewish Personnel Religio-Chambers. Unlike earthly mezuzote, this one was permanently sealed in plastilex; it might not have been acceptable to the extremely religious, but it was necessary in space, so as not to allow alien microbes to find a host amid the parchment and vegetable-based ink.

            As the only Jewish member of the Interstellar Expedition to Starform AA Epsilon 4943, and Conservadox at that, Mordechai could not let a day go by without performing the mitzvah-commandment of daily Torah study b’chavruta—with his study partners. As the only Jew on the Ticonderoga, he could not do this face-to-face, but StarShipCommand on SolSystem’s Moon (in the System containing OldEarth, which centuries of pollution and global warming had rendered uninhabitable; hence, all these expeditions to find new planets for humanity to colonize) had handily supplied him with a handy list of other practicing Jews who wished to study SpaceTalmud. This enabled him to fulfill the mitzvah.

            Mordechai knew also that there were interested gentiles—a Catholic monk and plant geneticist, Father William Mendel, on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, would often participate when his schedule permitted, and a Buddhist, George Freeh, on leave from writing a Romulan-English lexicon on distant Pluto, would “relax his mind,” as he put it, by chiming in, occasionally.

            Mordechai enjoyed their insights, but he was happiest when he could effect an Einsteinian Hologram Linkup with Eliezer Bokospeichik, the youngest son of Grand Rabbi Menachem Mendel Bokospeichik, who was head of the Maldemer Chasidim, a sect that, after early sensing the ensuing destruction of OldEarth, had contracted with an Israeli aerospace firm to build a SpaceArk large enough to float them to Mars, where they were engaged in attempting to convert the Martians, marry them Jewishly, and raise their children in the faith. They were, sadly, finding it difficult to do so, according to Jewish Law—the Martians had three genders.

            Back over Epsilon, Mordechai eased into his Study Seat and belted himself in, put on his kipah-skullcap and pulled its elasto-band under his chin. To create the sensation of complete engagement with his study partners, his personal rebbe, Moshe Rochev-Kochav, who had semicha (rabbinical ordination) from Yeshiva ahl Shem Otto Lilienthal—had ruled that he must learn under conditions of Deep Space; hence, no gravity could be present. Mordechai put on his Virtual Helmet and adjusted its ViewScreen to allow for the holograms of his study partners to appear. He was also praying to the Jewish God of all the Cosmos that his other chavruta-partner, Charlie Levine, a navigator on StarShip Bellanca VII, be available—Charlie had promised to alter his work schedule to allow time for Torah.

            Flicking at the panel of switches and dials before him, and noting the position of the brightest star in his corner of Galaxy Andromeda M31, Mordechai sent out a homing signal to the two. There was a soft humming, and then, a slight ringing noise as he made contact, first, with Eliezer—Mordechai muttered a soft prayer; Eliezer’s insights were really, well, insightful.

            As for Charlie? Hmm—no luck, today. But, wait! Yes—no—the homing signal flashed into space, and found no receiver. Shoot. Oh, well.

            “Eliezer, do you read me? Prepare for hologram-transmission,” said Mordechai.

            “Up and running, Chaver (Friend, Study Partner) Mordechai,” came Eliezer’s voice.

            “Coordinates two-two-zero-fourteen.”

            “I read,” said Eliezer.

            “And lock.”

            The image of his chavruta-partner, Eliezer, appeared in Mordechai’s VirtualHelmet viewfinder. Eliezer smiled: he was seeing Mordechai, as well.

            “Shalom Aleichem!”

            “Aleichem Shalom!”

            “Nu, vos macht ah Yid? (How’s a Jew doing?)”

            “Shall we begin?”

            “Yes!—I’m on Talmud Kiddushin Chalal, the Tractate of Space-Marriage, Daf Bet, Amud Alef—Folio 2, Side One. I will read and translate, from the Sparamaic:

            “’The 23rd Century Mishnah states: “A Venusian female organism may be acquired in five ways: via money—that is, Martian drachmae; a contract—etched only on the leaf of a Boddhi-tree; or coimplantment—by one other Venusian, male, monoplant-choosing. There are also the choices implanted via thought-processes: implant-mental-chip, General Zdrryhnian issue; Freedom of Will from the Creator. And she acquires herself back in two ways.
            “The 24th Century Gemara explains: “Via money—that is, according to Plutonian Rabbi Lychus: a Plutonian drachma. According to Jupiterian Rabbi Hyle: a Jupiterian dinar. And she acquires herself back in two ways: through a writ of divorce, as enacted in a SpaceCommand Jewish Bet Din Law Court, or through the Departure-from-Life-Form of her Male Counterpart.”

            “Wow!” breathed Mordechai, “What an amazing piece of Talmud this is! What does NewRashi say?”

            NewRashi was the commentary of one Rabbi Shinar ben Yisrael, a Mercurian Jew-by-Choice who, stranded on Pluto’s moon Styx after his exploratory voyage crashed there back in 2527, wrote an extensive commentary on the entire SpaceTalmud, storing it on a LogoDrive which was later discovered; it had become the Universal SpaceTalmud Commentary, noted both for its ease of usage and depth of knowledge. Rabbi Shinar, known by the acronym NewRashi, was regarded as the 26th Century’s Prince of Commentators.

            “Well, let’s see,” said Eliezer, “how much time for Torah-study have you got?”

            “At least five parsec-lengths,” said Mordechai.

            “That should give us time to get up to the mental-chip section,” said Eliezer.

            “I love this!” said Mordechai.

            “Hey, what does God say about Torah?” laughed Eliezer, far-off in the deep reaches of Space, “’It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who shall go off, and fetch it for us?”

            “’Nor is it in the depths of the sea!’” Mordechai joined in, “’It is as near as the nearest hologram-transmitter!’”


            And the universe spun on….

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Plea for Our Broken Country



A Plea for Our Broken Country

By David Hartley Mark

                                                            Orange Man is screaming,
                                                            “What have you got to lose?”
                                                           
I walk into the university,
                                                            Look at all the students
                                                            Wearing smocks of blue and white
                                                            Learning means of healing
                                                            Shutting our doors, so we
                                                            Can’t hear all his screaming

                                                            Black man’s hands up, walking
                                                            Slowly towards his auto
                                                            Cops are shooting him down
                                                            Dog upon the highway

                                                            Fire flames and blood

                                                            Orange man is screaming
                                                           
Students busy learning
                                                            I am teaching English
                                                            Students healing us

                                                            Dog upon the highway
                                                            How long O God how long?
                                                            People full of anger
                                                            Healing must begin

                                                            Students raising hands up
                                                            Studying how to heal us
                                                            Learning what they need to know
                                                            For healing our world

                                                            Working at computers
                                                            Studying their textbooks
                                                            My dad would have loved them
                                                            He also went to school
                                                            Like them, first in family
                                                            This is what he told me,
                                                            And what I say to them:

                                                            “Get that piece of paper:
                                                            “Work for your diploma—
                                                            “Once the learning’s in your head,
                                                            “No one can take it away.”

                                                            Orange man will fade to smoke.
                                                            The Arc will sail toward justice—
                                                            God please hold us all in
                                                            The palm of Your mighty hand:

                                                            Reach out to my students
                                                            They will start the healing
                                                            Raise up all this country
                                                           
                                                            Walk us toward the Light.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Barack n' Ben: Final Frenemies' Shmooze (As Secretly Recorded)

Barack n’ Ben: Notes from a Final Frenemies’ Shmooze


By David Hartley Mark

Scene: The Presidential Grande Suite at the Lotte New York Grande Hotel, which has been completely soundproofed and made bug-free for this historic occasion: the final meeting between Barack Obama as a sitting president of the US, and Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel. This meeting was, however, secretly taped by a tiny drone disguised as a juke, an Israeli cockroach, which reposed beneath the PM’s couch and was programmed to lie perfectly still during the meeting of the leaders of the two great democracies.

(For the purposes of brevity, PMI—Prime Minister of Israel—is referred to by the acronym BB, and POTUS is BO. –Ed.)

BO: Hi, Ben.

BB: Shalom, Barack. First off, thanks for the Memo of Understanding.

BO: Yeah, thanks. And you’re welcome for the money. And please note that, while the media is having a field day hollering about how you and I are not all that touchy-feely-huggy-bear about each other, this $38 billion is the single largest gift made by the US in history, to a foreign power. You’re welcome, again.

BB: Which we will promptly turn around, and use to purchase American weapons. For decades, Israel has been the prime testing ground for American ordnance. And we improve upon it, you know.

BO: Yeah, I know. The five-star air force generals at the Pentagon weren’t too happy that you were going to rip out the dashboards of their star baby, the F-35, and change the avionics, but I told them it was just to replace the directions in Hebrew.

BB: Well, you know, the F-35 is a dog, but it has potential.

BO: Tell me about it. What’s wrong with drones?

BB: No argument from me.

BO: OK, so let’s talk. Thanks for the moratorium on East Jerusalem building. Any chance of a startup on Peace Talks with Abbas?

BB: Um, no. Sorry. Not gonna happen on my watch.

BO: Just thought I’d ask.

BB: Well, asked and answered. And with all due respect, Mr. President, you and I both know that you’re a lame duck. If Hillary gets in, she won’t ever dare push me like you did.

BO: I guess. So we move on….

BB: Well, just to clear the air—you’ve got Trump, I’ve got Lieberman and Bennett.

BO: So maybe, I’m better off. After all, Trump isn’t in power yet. By the way, thanks for not taking his side.

BB: Hey, you don’t poop where you eat.

BO: Tell me about it.

BB: What’re his chances, anyway? Be honest. You’ve never been less with me, Barack, and I appreciate it.

BO: Well, as you know, I’ve been stumping for Hillary….

BB: Like I said, what’re the odds?

BO: (sighing) To tell you the truth, no one knows. Crazy year. Craziest I’ve ever seen. Craziest John Lewis has ever seen, and he goes back a while.

BB: Hey, you should move to Israel. Every election year here is a crazy year.

BO: But you’re always coming up smiling. How d’you do it, Ben?

BB: It’s all how you play the system. Pretend to be everyone’s friend, move the government to a crisis, and then, come up and say you’re the only one who can solve the crisis that you—I mean, the other people—created. It always works. Jews lap it up every time. We are a people living from crisis to crisis. It’s in our genes.

BO: Well, Americans are different.

BB: Tell that to Trump. It’s working for him.

BO: Hmm—you may have something there. Oh, and thanks for the shared intelligence about that Chelsea thing.

(He high-fives BB.)

BB: Least we can do.

BO: And for not responding when Trump asked for Israeli support in fighting ISIS.

BB: I’m nodding my head. But I’m nodding my head to show you that I heard what you said, not that I agree with you, or with him. I’m just nodding my head.

BO: Duly noted.

(Crowd noises outside.)

BO: I think the Press is here. I hear them outside. I don’t know how long my Security boys can hold them back. They’ll be wanting a joint statement. Should we practice our smiles?

BB: Sure—do I have any cabbage between my teeth? That was a hell of a lot of hummus they served for lunch. It’s not a favorite of mine, and Sarah serves it all the time.

BO: Go look in the mirror. There’s something red on your back right molar. What about me?

BB: Straighten your tie, Mr. President.

BO: I hate the damn things. The girls are always buying me new ones from Disney. Ready to wave-and-smile?

BB: And talk in vague and pontificating generalities?

BO: Yup. The name of the game.

BB: Hey, listen, when you’re not president any more, we should get together. I’ll buy you a Turkish coffee. I know this place on Allenby with a quiet room in the back. And, some other time, the head of the Political Science Department at Hebrew U. will want you to speak there. He’s Labour, but he’s a friend of mine. We talk. He tells me just enough dirt about the Labour leadership to help me keep them off balance.

BO: Just make sure to make the check out to the Barack Obama Foundation, if and when it happens.

BB: If?

BO: You know, Ben, you know. Don’t bullsh*t me. What, you think you’re ever gonna want to see me again, when I’m just a former president? You’ll see me, you’ll cross the street.

BB: Oh, shoot! Gimme a hug, Leader of the Free World.

BO: You too, Head of State of the Only Democracy in the Middle East.

(The two world leaders embrace, awkwardly, but with a smidgen of sincerity, and separate.)

BO: Did you just cry a little bit?

BB: No, dammit! I did not. What, cry for you, you stuffed-shirt Harvard preppie?

BO: Yes, you did—I saw you! You MIT nerd.

BB: Barack, promise me—if that carrot-headed maniac becomes president—can I call you for advice?

BO: Any time, Ben, any time. Just dial New Zealand. (chuckles)

BB: Thanks, Man. Oh, and good luck.

BO: Good luck to YOU. You’re the one who needs it, now. I’ll be sitting pretty…..

BB: Tell me about it. Never mind: time to smile….


(The Two exit to Meet the Press.)

Monday, September 19, 2016

Kee Tavo: The Shammas's (Synagogue Sexton's) Tale



Kee Tavo: The Tale of Mr. Haimowitz, Our Shammas

By Rabbi David Hartley Mark

“Now, if you obey the LORD your GOD, to observe faithfully all His commandments…[then] all these blessings will come upon you and take effect….But if you do not obey the LORD your GOD…all these curses will come upon you and take effect….” –Deut. 28:1-2, 15.

“It became the custom, when the annual cycle of Torah readings would reach this chapter, to call up a volunteer for the curses (sometimes the synagogue’s contract with the sexton included his objligation to ‘volunteer’”). …The chapter itself would be read…in a low voice, [reflecting] an old fear that, if one spoke too loudly of possible adversity, it might in mysterious fashion, be allowed to happen.”

 –Rabbi Gunther Plaut, Ed., The Torah: A Modern Commentary. NYC, NY: UAHC Press, 1981.

I remember the Shammas, the Sexton, Mr. Shulem Haimowitz, in the shul of my childhood, a humble Synagogue-Hebrew Day School on the Lower East Side of New York City. I had begun attending the kindergarten of the East Side Hebrew Day School, when my not-yet-Orthodox parents placed me into its dual program (Hebrew in the morning, Secular courses in the afternoon) of the Day School because I had been born in the early part of my birthyear, and they wanted me to begin school early, rather than wait for the fall of the following year, as the local NYC Public Schools would have required. Of such seemingly minor decisions are children’s futures made; it certainly contributed to my becoming a rabbi.

It was not a bad thing to study with a smaller parochial school class. Indeed, most of the children from my kindergarten continued with me through the years, and we all graduated together from the eighth grade. We separated, finally, to attend different public schools (I alone went to Yeshiva University High School, but that is another story.).

Itzik Haimowitz did not go the entire route with us; he was Mr. Haimowitz’s eldest. We were not friends, because Itzik and I were in competition for “least athletic boy,” back in those early years. Neither of us could punch a pink-rubber Spalding ball (pronounced “Spall-DEEN” in NYC argot) sufficiently hard to get on base; we could not hit a penny to make it dance and spin over, nor flip baseball cards sufficiently well to win a Roger Maris, let alone the coveted Mickey Mantle. We were inevitably the last two chosen for a game of frozen tag, ring-a-leevio, or dodge ball.

This prejudice against us did not make us friends. Itzik may have been ashamed of his father Shulem (Yiddish for “Peace”), whose position as Shammas of the Shul, or lowliest temple functionary, did not exactly grant his eldest son any unique social standing among our classmates. Mr. Haimowitz was a simple man, with few teeth, but a ready smile. He was always happy to do whatever our forbidding Rabbi Nunberg commanded—it was the Age of the Imperial Rabbi, whose word was law, particularly in Orthodox shuls.

The problem was that there was not all that much of which Mr. Haimowitz was capable. True, he could set up chairs, and perhaps count the pennies from the pushka, the charity box that stood on the shtender, the central pulpit facing the Holy Ark, from which laymen led services—the advantage to an Orthodox shul is that many, if not most, congregants are capable of doing so; they have at least a command, if not an understanding, of Hebrew.

Mr. Haimowitz, as I say, was always at Rabbi Nunberg’s beck and call, but, beyond smiling and greeting visitors to the shul, he seemed unable to do much more. Folks said that, back in Europe, he had been a talmid chacham, a learned scholar, but, fleeing the War as a refugee, losing everything, there were rumors that he had been beaten severely by street thugs, and that this had done something to his mind. We would never know.

It was his simple piety and devotion to God that made him an attraction to us children, and the congregants, as well. It was not unusual for the laypeople of the congregation to seek him out for his eitsa tova, his “good counsel,” rather than the dour, forbidding rabbi, who chain-smoked Pall Malls and could most often be found in his office, frowning over the account-books, while drawing fanciful angels and Jewish symbols on scraps of foolscap paper—he had once been an art student at the Sorbonne, but returned home at the outbreak of World War II.  

“If I cannot help you,” Mr. Haimowitz would smile, “I can listen. And if I cannot understand your problem, I will speak to God for you; He understands everything. And then, I will read Tehillim, His most holy Psalms, on your behalf, and God will find the solution in His universe, no matter how well-hidden. So come, and we’ll talk. I will make tea.”

He and his family—there was a Mrs. Haimowitz, too, but we rarely saw her; she had her hands full with the enormous Haimowitz brood, of whom Itzik was eldest, and he only an elementary schooler—lived above stairs. The Hebrew School-with-a-Shul-Attached had originally been a brownstone, which was later converted to a three-storey apartment house. When Rabbi Nunberg’s father-in-law, Rabbi Weinbaum, had purchased or inherited the building—the details were fuzzy, as were details surrounding many a holy site in the Old Neighborhood—he had converted the basement and first floor to classroom and prayer-room spaces, but had left a lone apartment on the third floor.

That was where the Haimowitzes lived. Once, when Rabbi Nunberg had combed the entire school level and was unable to find his semi-faithful gofer, Mr. Haimowitz, his eye lit upon me, a likely messenger, and he sent me up the creaking stairway to the third floor to summon him. Awed and more than a bit frightened, I climbed the mysterious stairs, finding the light fading as I mounted higher and higher. Strange smells, of boiled cabbage, onions, garlic, and an overcast of chicken soup, assailed my young nostrils.

As I reached the top step, a lone yellowish light bulb did its best to pierce the darkness, which was almost smoky in its impenetrability. A tall, greenish-brown-painted door, with a huge olive-wood Israeli-style mezuzah adorning the doorpost, stood before me. Somewhere inside, I heard a radio playing, and a baby—or was that two, or three?—crying.

Charged with my mission, I knocked on the door, timidly. I heard footsteps. A great sound of bolts and locks sliding and clicking, clacking and releasing. The door opened, and little Itzik stood there. Seeing me, he scowled.

“Whaddayou want?” he challenged me.
“The Rabbi sent me,” I answered, both justifying my mission and defending myself.
“Yeah, what’s it to ya?” Itzik went on; this was his turf, and I was the interloper, rabbi or no.
“He wants ya foddah,” I went on.
“Tell dat old goat dat Mr. Haimowitz is—is—busy. My dad’ll be down when he’s ready,” Itzik replied, smiling evilly, and then slamming the door in my face. I shrugged, and returned to give the report to the rabbi.

Rabbi Nunberg scowled: he was not pleased, but Mr. Haimowitz appeared shortly after, clattering down the ancient stairs from the upper level. The Rabbi took him aside, and clarified what he wanted: something about setting up chairs for Shabbos.

Is this what I risked my life for? I wondered, and ran home through the gathering darkness to my library books, and my mother’s cooking. It was cold, and the sun was setting over the Hudson. Shadows were growing longer.

That Shabbos was Parshat Kee Tavo, the Portion of the Blessings and Curses. As stipulated in his contract, Mr. Haimowitz, wearing a woolen tallis-prayer shawl that had once been snow-white but was now yellowed with age and neglect, stood up proudly to receive his less-than-desirable aliyah, his calling-up to the Torah—that is, to receive the questionable honor of having the List of Curses read for him (Deut. 28:15-69).

The congregation waited in anticipation. The Baal Koreh, or Torah Reader, was a tall, rail-thin young man, Rabbi Nachum, a teacher of slight erudition, whose principal talent appeared to be producing children. His wife was pale and short, and wore an enormous, mushroom-like shaitel (wig) which often threatened to topple her, and who rarely came to shul with her brood. Few of the young mothers were able to do so, because there was no eruv, or wire boundary of which the local rabbis would approve—each rabbi did his best to rule more stringently than the next, and so the tight lasso of Jewish Law grew narrower still, enforcing over the observant families of the neighborhood the least contact with the outside world.

We all looked on as Mr. Haimowitz mounted the bema, the podium, a beatific smile on his face. He wore a suit whose color had once been charcoal-grey, but was now a greenish-black; his shoes were shapeless and scuffed. One sock was brown; the other, gray. The Baal Koreh cleared his throat; he had been glancing sideways at a small volume of Talmud, which he customarily studied in between Torah portions, seeking to emulate a Gadol HaDor, the Grand Rabbi Mendel Fierstein, a Great Rabbi of Our Generation, who was known to never waste a moment’s devotion to Torah Study.

Mr. Haimowitz touched his ancient tallis to the Torah-text gently, and kissed it tenderly. Despite his being Shammas of the shul, he rarely received an aliyah—Rabbi Nunberg favored those of his inner circle who would make fat donations to the shul, and it was an open secret that, as proprietor and major employee of the ESHDS, he set his own salary. Still, this was Shabbat, no time for finance. Mr. Haimowitz chanted the blessings in a plain, sweet voice, and we all understood the honest joy and devotion he derived from this mitzvah, one of the greatest honors a prusteh Yid, a simple Jew, could receive: a small portion of Torah, even a tainted one.

As the Baal Koreh quietly began his chant of the “Catalogue of Curses,” I kept my eyes on Mr. Haimowitz.

“Though you take much seed out to the field, you shall gather in little, for the locust shall consume it….”

He smiled more broadly; perhaps, deep back in his damaged memory, he recalled the translation, and was forgiving God for His impatience with His erring creatures.

“All these curses shall befall you…because you did not heed the LORD your GOD and keep the commandments…that He enjoined upon you.”

I glanced at Rabbi Nunberg. He was sitting with his yarmulkeh sideways on his head, following the text, shaking his head, mumbling, Ai yi yi yi…. A sign of mourning. Was he affected by the deep drama of a God Who offered curses to His beloved people? And on Shabbos, the Holy Sabbath? Faces were cast down, all through the Sanctuary. It was a mournful reading, indeed.

Only Mr. Haimowitz continued to smile. And then, the reading was over, his aliyah done. He shook hands, all around, and moved to the side, as ritual required, to signify his reluctance to depart the Presence of the Holy Torah, Daughter of the King.

What was the secret that called forth his smile? I did not know then, but I believe I do, now. Mr. Haimowitz shared it with me, that day. Itzik did not know it, either, but I hope that his father, his poor, luckless father who yet loved God, taught it to him, by deeds, not words.

We come into the world, proud, feeling self-sufficient. But the world breaks everyone.  We suffer loss. We retreat; we mourn, we cry. We pray to God.

God will answer, “Your life will often be difficult, and I cannot always help you openly; you must first help yourself. Go—make the effort! Strive. Struggle. But if you reach out to Me, I will do My best to be your Source of Strength.”

Thank you, Mr. Haimowitz. You turned curses into blessings. You, the man who had so little, who worked hard to provide for his family, who faced defeat, yet took your setbacks in stride, taught us all how to survive. I did not know it then, but I believe I can understand it, now. All it took for you to teach it to us, was a smile. Thank you, and God rest your soul.