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Sample Story

Midrash Vayishlach
The Meaning of a Name

Mark was the best wrestler in the state. He may have been the best wrestler in the country. He was big, muscular and had an instinct for exactly how to finish an opponent quickly and efficiently. He started wrestling when he was very young, and as he grew it became part of his being. Mark was very popular. As he wrestled throughout his school career, people would come from far and wide to see him ply his sport.

During one of his tournaments, he learned a move that the crowds loved. Using leverage, he picked up his opponent and slammed him down in a way to cause the mat to emit a sound that can best be described as "crishhh". The people in the stands stood and screamed in unison, "crishhh, crishhh, crishhh"- until Mark stood up and waved. They roared their approval and continued to call out, "crishhh, crishhh, crishhh". This special ovation followed him from tournament to tournament.

While on the wrestling team in college, the government asked for the school to send the team on a goodwill tour to Mexico. It was part of a cultural exchange between governments. The team packed up and traveled on a whirlwind tour in which they wrestled volunteer residents in eighteen different cities. The newspapers had publicized the tour so well that by the time the team left, a group of over one hundred and twenty accompanied them, at their own expense. As Mark wrestled time and again, the crowd, in their now famous cheer, would scream loudly, "crishhh, crishhh, crishhh", every time Mark would both begin and end one of his always successful bouts.

The tour seemed to take the wind out of Mark. After only six days of constant exhibitions and travel, everything was a blur. On that evening he tossed and turned and just could not relax enough to sleep. Finally, as the first rays poked over the horizon, he decided to go jogging to try to get his mind and body back in sync.

As he moved through street after winding street, his mind melded with the rhythm of his feet. Mark rounded one of the blocks and heard a scream for help coming from one of the shack dwellings. What was unusual was that the language was English and he could not remember hearing anything but Spanish being spoken throughout their tour.

He poked his head into the shack where a doctor was bent over a small boy, his hands positioned through an incision in the boy's body. The doctor was Mexican but had developed an unusual habit when stressed to speak English, in which he was fluent. Mark asked if he could help. He said that the boy had an inflamed appendix and that it had to come out. If it was not removed, it would burst in the boy's body and he would die. The problem was that if he moved his hands from the sides of the incision, it would cause the inflamed appendix to burst. The doctor had to hold open the incision while another set of hands would have to lift the organ up so he could make the cut, and then, the organ would have to be moved outside the body before it broke open.

Without hesitation Mark placed his hands inside the incision, cradled the appendix and slowly lifted. The doctor cut the two ends and tied them off. Mark in a slow smooth careful motion lifted the bulging appendix out of the boy and placed it in a bucket at the side of the cot. As soon as it hit the bottom of the bucket, it burst and disintegrated. The doctor finished closing the incision and thanked Mark. He said that if he had not come along at that time the boy most certainly would have died.

The parents of the boy went up to Mark, clasped his hands into theirs and said in a low thankful voice, "crishhh, crishhh, crishhh". Mark was stunned. These people could not possibly have known of his wrestling. The doctor said that in their particular dialect crishhh meant "one who gives life through kindness". It was the highest compliment that could be given in this village.

Mark made his way back to where the team was staying. He said nothing of the amazing experience he had that day. The next time he took to the wrestling mat, the crowd in their usual fashion cheered their famous cry both before and after the inevitable victory. Yet for Mark, that cheer, now and forever, held a far different meaning.