Once in the town of Hasbrouck Heights there lived two brothers, Hank and Harry. One was big, and one was small.
Now, Harry wasn’t destined to be small. His father was six-foot-two and his mother was five-foot-eight. By Jewish standards he was destined to be a giant [Full disclosure: the Maggid is not a tall man]. But Hank was two years older, and he was always taller than Harry. And stronger. And faster. And if you took the word of every teacher in school who taught Hank before they met Harry, Hank was also smarter, more charming, and less trouble in general.
It could be a bit frustrating for a younger brother.
And it wasn’t just school. In Little League, Hank was a star pitcher and a famous home run hitter. It made it a bit hard on Harry who was a good second baseman but was setting no records at the plate. And their guitar teacher was very fond of Harry but couldn’t help pointing out that while he did an admirable job on the chords of “Here Comes the Sun,” Hank had mastered “Stairway to Heaven” in all its subtleties.
Summer camp was the same deal. Counselors, division heads, life guards, and all the staff were eventually going to ask, “Are you Hank Aronson’s little brother?” It was infuriating.
So it was an easy decision for Harry, after seventh grade, when his parents asked him if he wanted to try another sleep-away summer camp. He said yes in a second. The new camp had a really small, muddy lake, and apparently the sports fields left much to be desired. But there was definitely one thing that Camp Mercaz was missing that Harry was OK with.
Seventh grade had been kind to Harry. Not only did he have a wonderful bar mitzvah (Parshat Naso), but he had shot up four inches and put some meat on his bones. Suddenly he was being picked first for basketball. He wasn’t nearly as tall as Hank, but things were definitely looking up.
Camp Mercaz had turned out to be a great decision. There were still people from his school in the camp, and certainly some of the staff must have known Hank, but no one seemed to know that they were brothers. It was like a miracle.
Harry blossomed. He was the fastest swimmer in his bunk, and in the cross lake race he finished third for the whole camp. He got a solo in his camp division’s musical (he was the cowardly lion in the all Hebrew version of The Wizard of Oz). He was a captain during color war (Mayim versus Aish). It was like a dream come true.
Visiting Day came, and Harry was looking forward to seeing his parents. He wanted to introduce them to his counselors. He wanted to sing them his solo. He wanted them to know everything about his wonderful camp experience.
He could see their old Dodge Caravan pulling up in the baseball field the camp used as a parking lot on Visiting Day. It had been weeks since he’d seen them, and he watched to see their car doors open and for them to see him for that first sighting. It was going to be—
The driver side passenger door opened, and out stepped Hank. Harry didn’t know that he was coming. He loved his brother—he really did—but this was going to ruin everything. Now everyone would know that he was the younger brother of a legend. He could feel the blood rushing to his face.
Harry rushed up to his family, and there were hugs all around. His parents pulled out of the minivan all the goodies they had brought him (don’t worry, everything was nut free), and the Yankees hoodie he had requested, in the one letter he had mailed home in the first month. Harry smiled politely and mingled with his parents, waiting for a moment when he could pull his brother aside.
Finally the moment came. Harry grabbed Hank’s arm and pulled him over to the other side of the minivan, closer to the neighboring Lexus S.U.V. and out of earshot of his parents.
“How are you, little brother?”
“Fine, fine. Listen, you have to do me a favor.”
“Name it, bro.”
“For the next four hours, we are not brothers.”
“You heard me. I’ve got a great gig going here. For the first time in my life I’m out of your shadow. It’s like I’m the older brother.”
“Nice, isn’t it?”
“You have no idea. But I want it to continue, and if people here find out I’m your little brother, all the comparisons will start all over again.”
“So what you’re saying is that we got a Yaakov/Eisav thing going on.”
“You want to rent my birthright for four hours.”
“Interesting analogy. Sure, why not? For four hours I want to be the bechor, the first born.”
”And what do I get out of this?”
“Really? Fine, name your price.”
“I’m not a cheap date, Harry. I’m not giving you my birthright for a bowl of soup. I get to use your PlayStation the whole time you’re in camp.”
“Wow. That’s asking a lot.”
“Oh, I’m not done. When you get home, you have to make my bed for four weeks.”
“Ouch. What if I say no?”
“I think your counselor may have been my soccer coach last year. Let me just go over and say hi.”
“O.K., O.K., you have a deal.”
The brothers shook hands and then crossed back over to where their parents were standing. Mrs. Aronson was deep in conversation with some woman with who had been her roommate in college.
“Oh here they are now!” she said. This is my son Harry, who is a camper here, and this is—“
“His cousin Hank,” Hank interjected. “Nice to meet you.”
Hanna Aronson stared at her sons in puzzlement, but she knew better than to ask. After all these years of raising two boys, it was probably easier just to play along. And the boys’ father loved a good intrigue, so the brothers knew he would cooperate.
So for the remainder of visiting day, Hank was Harry’s cousin, and no one was the wiser. Hank never regretted that he had loaned Harry his birthright, and Harry got to maintain his status as the big man on campus. Hank got to use the PlayStation, and Harry felt comfortable with his place in the world, for at least four more weeks. No one vowed to kill their brother and no one had to flee the country.
All in all, a good day for everyone.