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|The Stranger I Grew Up With
Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum
A few years after I was born, back in the late 1950s, my Dad met a stranger
who was new to our small town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family.
The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later. As I grew up, I never questioned his place in our family.
Mom taught me to love the Word of God, and Dad taught me to obey it, but the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales.
Adventures, mysteries, and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening.. He was like a friend to the whole family.
He took Dad, my brother, and me to our first major league football game. He was always encouraging us to see the films and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several stars. The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn't seem to mind, but sometimes Mum would quietly get up -- while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places -- go to her room, read the Bible and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave?
You see, my Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house -- not from us, from our friends, or from adults. Yet, our longtime visitor used occasional four letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted.
My Dad was a teetotaler who didn't permit alcohol in his home -- not even for cooking, but the stranger felt like we needed exposure and enlightened us to other ways of life.
He offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often. He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished. He talked freely about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. He spoke of homosexuality and other sexual deviance's as though they were totally acceptable.
As I look back, I believe it was by the grace of God that the stranger did
not influence us more. Time after time, he opposed the values of parents, yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave. Over fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with us, but if I were to walk into my parents home today, I would still see him sitting there waiting for someone to listen to his stories and watch him draw his pictures.
His name?........We just called him by his initials... "TV"