“Where Have You Gone, James Dean?” Beyond Twelve Gates

Beyond Twelve Gates Parshas Ki Savo September 24, 2016

“Where Have You Gone, James Dean?”

The Woodlands High School JV football team had been working hard on the practice field for nearly two months and had yet to win a game. But two weeks ago, that all was about to change. The Woodlands (Houston, TX) team was down 29-28 to Katy Tompkins JV, but Woodlands had the football and was on the move. On the next to last play of the game, with time running out on the clock, the Woodlands JV quarterback completed a pass to his receiver, Austin Brauweiler. Austin rumbled toward the goal line for the winning TD but he crashed into a Tompkins player at the 1-yard line. So with just a few seconds on the clock, Woodlands was lining up to try and score the winning touchdown when the players noticed that the Tompkins player wasn’t moving. Life Flight was called and the Tompkins player was airlifted to the hospital.

Following a 40-minute delay in action, the game was prepared to resume. With his team just 1 yard away from a potential victory, David Colschen, The Woodlands JV coach, knew in his heart what the right call was. Colschen — at that point, the coach of a winless team on the doorstep of their first victory – told his quarterback to take the snap and to kneel down to end the game out of respect to the injured player. Coach Colschen said “If we do go and try to win the game, do you really celebrate that?” and he added “not a single one of our kids complained about the decision … we’re here to teach kids, and there’s a lot of lessons learned through football and sports.” Tompkins athletic director and football coach, Anthony Tademy was touched by The Woodlands’ decision. “It showed a lot of class,” CoachTademy said. “It wasn’t about a win or a loss.” And the Tompkins player is out of the hospital and doing much better.

We’ve all heard the term “a class act.” But class is not an “act.” Class is a deep-seated way of life for those who possess it. Having class involves good manners, politeness, pride without showboating, empathy, humility, and an abundance of self-control. The actions of class-act people speak louder than their words. Ethics of the Fathers teaches that if one doesn’t behave like a mensch (a fine human being) one doesn’t have Torah (im ain derech eretz ain Torah). When you act with decency towards others, you are a ‘good-will ambassador’ for whatever and whomever you represent.

Parshas Ki Savo Deuteronomy 26:1 — 29:8

The parsha begins by describing the annual mitzvah for farmers in Israel to bring their bikurim, or first fruits, to the Kohen in the Temple. The donor was then to recite a prayer of thanksgiving, recalling how G-d had delivered his ancestors from Egypt and brought the new generation into a land flowing with milk and honey. Moses then teaches two special mitzvos, which the Jewish people are to perform upon entering the land of Israel. First, they are to inscribe the entire Torah on twelve large stones. Second, the twelve tribes are to ratify their acceptance of the Torah in the following manner; six tribes were to stand on Mt. Gerizim, representing the blessings, while the remaining six tribes were to stand on Mt. Eival, signifying the curses. The Levites were to stand in the valley between, reciting blessings and curses which will apply respectively to those who observe and defy the Torah. The parsha concludes with a recounting of the wonderful blessings G-d will bestow upon the Jewish people for remaining faithful, and a chilling prophecy of what might happen if the Jewish people do not follow the Torah.

Rabbinical Ruminations

Where have you gone, James Dean? Can performers like James Dean and Miles Davis still be considered the models of cool? Do the cool kids in school turn out to be the winners in life? If you have ever attended a high school reunion, you may have a sense that the definition of ‘cool’ may have changed, and that ‘cool’ doesn’t necessarily translate to ‘successful.’ In a study, entitled What Ever Happened to the “Cool” Kids? Long-Term Sequelae of Early Adolescent Pseudomature Behavior, researchers followed a sample of 184 adolescents from ages 13 to 23 and found that the cool kids didn’t turn out so well. In fact, early pseudomature behavior predicted long-term difficulties in close relationships and significant problems with alcohol and substance abuse. Particularly at risk were those who highly valued being popular and for whom status among peers was most important.

What does it mean to be cool today? “When I set out to find what people mean by coolness, I wanted to find corroboration of what I thought coolness was,” said Ilan Dar-Nimrod, Ph.D., lead author of “Coolness: An Empirical Investigation.” “I was not prepared to find that coolness has lost so much of its historical origins and meaning — the very heavy countercultural, somewhat individualistic pose I associated with cool. “James Dean is no longer the epitome of cool,” Dar-Nimrod said. “The much darker version of what coolness is still there, but it is not the main focus. The main thing is: Do I like this person? Is this person nice to people, attractive, confident and successful? That’s cool today, at least among young mainstream individuals.”

How do you know if people matter to someone? By the way they treat others. The Hebrew expression derech eretz refers to behavior that is polite, respectful, thoughtful and civilized. A more familiar expression of derech eretz is “being a mensch.” Times change, and what was cool yesterday may no longer be cool today. Values and principles never change, however — and the values of the Torah are timeless.

Quote of the Week

‘One of these days’ is none of these days. — Anonymous

Joke of the Week

When I went to get my driver’s license renewed, our local motor-vehicle bureau was packed. The line inched along for almost an hour until the man ahead of me finally got his license.

He inspected his photo for a moment and commented to the clerk, “I was standing in line so long, I ended up looking pretty grouchy in this picture.”

The clerk looked at his picture closely. “It’s okay,” he reassured the man: “That’s how you’re going to look when the cops pull you over anyway.”

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