When I went through my Bar Mitzvah ceremony, when I was thirteen, I was excited. Not so much by the fact that I was going to be a “Man” in the eyes of the temple, but more because I knew that there would be gifts.
That is not to say that the ceremony meant nothing to me, on the contrary, it meant a great deal. While I am sure that I was a constant source of challenge to Rabbi Peskind, in that I was a lazy student, I was excited that once this was completed I would be able to take a more active role in the temple.
After the ceremony, as I expected, came the gifts. Most of these were checks, but there was also a ring to commemorate my Bar Mitzvah and there was a package. It was heavy and solid. My imagination was running wild about what it could be.
A Game? Some tools? A Model?
When I opened it, my heart sank. It was a book, and worse yet, it was a dictionary. I am embarrassed to say, even now, about 30 years later, that I was angry about this. For months that book sat in a corner of my closet. Never getting touched or looked at a second or third time. I was treating it like the proverbial Fifth Horseman and I would have nothing to do with it.
Sometimes, I think, especially when we are young, we fail to see the importance of a gift, even when the person that gave it to you does. So several month later, I was reading something in a paper and I came to a work that stumped me. While I do not recall the word now, I do remember trying to break it down for it root meanings, but got nowhere. So I asked my Mother what it meant. Her response was:
“You have a dictionary in the closet… look it up.”
Suddenly I needed to come face to face with the 800 pound gorilla in the closet. The big red book that I was loathing the mere existence of for so long. As I picked up the book, the cold sweat broke out on my brow and down the center of my back. I opened it to the page and, low and behold, there was the answer I needed.
While looking that word up, I found another that interested me, then another, and yet ANOTHER. Suddenly, before I knew it, I was sitting in my bedroom reading a dictionary, much like one would read an Anne Rice novel (I would say a Stephanie Meyer novel for the younger readers, but I doubt there is much in her books that would require a dictionary.)
Today, on my shelf, a mere five feet from where I sit writing this piece, sits that very same dictionary. Yes it is outdated and they are not that expensive, but there is something about that book that I just cannot bring myself to part with it.
You know how they say that you can never forget your first love? I think that this might be the same thing. To this day, that book means more to me than any of the other books on my shelves, short of the Torah, My Great-Great Grandmother’s Bible, and my Marine Corps Manual.
If there is a moral to this article… it would have to be to not discount the gifts of others. Just because it was not what you wanted at the time, it does not mean it is not what you might need very soon.