Tuesday, November 09, 2010

My 15th Marathon Run - and New PR!

Let me not keep you in suspense for a moment longer than is necessary: I crossed the finish line in 4:10:23, clobbering my old PR by 14:26 and finally coming in under the time goal (4:20) that I had set for myself 15 years ago when I embarked on my running lifestyle.

That’s the boring part. The exciting part is how I put it all together and pulled it off.

It began 3.5 seconds after concluding last year’s marathon. I crossed the line in 4:53:45 and was obviously delighted to have finished another marathon but immediately furious with myself at my increased inability to make my 4:20 time goal. I figured I have another 10-12 years of setting PRs before Old Man Time catches up to me, but I wasn’t going to wait that long. I want 4:20 NOW.

I then inundated myself with piles of reading and books and research and studies and expert commentary and crawled out from under the pile of information with a multi-step approach to tackling the problem.

First I was going to run through the winter. I had read much about wear and tear on the human body and learned that the general consensus is that the body is designed for wear (i.e. slamming into pavement in metronomic fashion), but not tear (i.e. twisting motions ever-present in sports like football and basketball). So I did run through the winter and my legs became much, much stronger as a result.

Then I stopped stretching pre-run. I read the results of study after study on this topic and determined that I would try this as well. I stretched very, very lightly and my results were that I did not endure any muscle pull or strain or tweak or tear for the entire year.

Then I decided to lose weight so that a) gravity would have less of an effect on me, and b) my body would become more efficient. I was surprised to learn that one’s body needs less oxygen when it weighs less. It needs less to function. How interesting. I found this to be true. As I was losing weight, I absolutely stopped feeling any pain from the waist up on any running distance. My lungs were simply not taxed as much as they used to be. I lost seventeen pounds.

Then I bought into the whole barefoot/minimalist running craze. I purchased the Nike Frees; nothing more than a slipper with padding. My hip, knee and ankle pain ceased immediately. Blisters and black toenails were relegated to the dustbin of my history.

Then I resolved a chafing problem by investing in Nipguards.

Then I built jogging routes where the first half was uphill, so I trashed my hammies, and the second half was downhill, so I trashed my quads.

Then during the summer I participated in the Jrunners Relay Race, an enthralling and exciting event that absolutely catapulted and energized the rest of my training.

Then I got the perfect running shorts, with a series of easily-accessible pockets running along the top of the waist which would house my supplies like a utility belt.

Then good things started happening.

I destroyed by Marathon Tune-up 18 Mile record by more than ten minutes.

I came within 34 seconds of my nine-year old half-marathon PR.

I put in my longest ever training run of 19 miles.

A week later, I put in my longest ever training run of 20 miles.

I put fifty more seasonal training miles than I ever did before, totaling 382 miles.

Then, five days before the marathon, my wife gave birth to a little boy! The joy completely invigorated me! The cool factor is that he’ll have several birthdays on marathon Sunday. How cool is that for a harbinger for running aptitude, especially when our three-year old boy is clearly a natural born runner?

The Shabbos before was spent bathing in hand sanitizers. The shalom zachor was awesome, but all I needed was one bug to derail me. I don’t think too many people were insulted that I shook their hand then squished me some Purell.

I had a two hour nap on Shabbos afternoon, built my Bodie Golem on a guest room bed the night before and promptly went to bed and didn’t fall asleep.

This wasn’t anxiety, mind you; it was because my brain was electric with thoughts. How can you sleep when there are thoughts to be thunk? I was so awake, that I happily engaged in diaper duty through the night.

While I was not sleeping, I laid out the game plan for the race. I had stacked the deck in my favor with my multi-facet approach towards establishing my PR, so the race itself needed this tack as well:

1) I was going to run in the middle of the road so my legs don’t over or understretch along the curb-slopes.

2) I was not going to overhydrate or overnourish.

3) I was going to spend a maximum of 45 seconds per family stop.

4) I was going to do whatever I could to avoid going to the bathroom.

5) I was going to go short-stride and steady on the uphills and punch it on the downhills.

6) I was going to punch it for the first half and focus on slow deceleration for the second half. I had read a book called “The Perfection Point,” which discussed the theoretical limits on various sports records. It discussed how, in the 100 meter dash, the first 60 yards are spent accelerating, and the last 40 were spent decelerating as little as possible. That would be my approach in general this year.

7) I was going to run the tangents – especially in Central Park – very mindfully and very carefully.

8) I was going to laugh at the Queensboro Bridge as I ascended the ramp.

I rose at 3:45, animated the Bodie Golem, put my running shell on top, sent out a few quick Facebook updates and I was out the door, with my right foot first, like my momma always tells me.

My father-in-law drove me to the Meadowlands, where for the umpteenth year in a row, they couldn’t a) put an obvious sign anywhere on the 3 pointing us in the right direction, b) put the buses in a parking lot that was viewable from the highway, and c) have a random employee with the skill to point us in the proper direction.

Notwithstanding that constant catastrophe, we made it to the start, but not without further organizational shenanigans.

When our bus rolled in, full buses were pointed to the right for runner drop-off, empty buses were pointed to the left and back from whence they came. Some fella with airplane light thingies thought we were empty and pointed us out, which the driver obeyed, which the runners realized immediately and began hollering at her to cut our losses and drop us off in middle of the expressway.

She refused at first, but we were all terribly polite, saying it’s not her fault, we saw her getting pointed in the wrong direction, but if you keep driving, it’s just going to make it worse, so would you please, pretty please, open the door and let us out. We’ll walk the half mile.

So she did.

I made it the International Marathon Minyan – attended by a record 130+ runners – and hung out there for a bit, even manning the Jrunners table (asking people to sign up for updates and handing out freebies) because hey, what else was I gonna do?

And man, it was cold. I did not expect this drawback to occur from the weight loss, but it’s excruciating for me now. Winter’s gonna hurt.

The only reprieve I had was from a generator powering one of the speakers dotted throughout the runner’s village. I was so cold, I didn’t mind breathing the carbon monoxide, nor did I mind it when I stood too close and nearly burned my calf off.

Once the minyan participants petered out, I headed to my corral at the proper time, lined up and stood at the foot of the Verrazano, positively crackling with anticipation, excitement and total-body energy. It was PR clobberin’ time. I felt so good and strong standing there, that I flexed every sinew and muscle in my body and just felt alive. I was going to break my PR today, yes indeed. The only question was, by how much?

The cannon fired, Frank Sinatra sang “New York,” I began with my right foot again, and as I crossed the start line, the MC singled me out by saying, “Well, SuperJew has joined us today! Good luck to him!”

In case you’re not aware, I wear an easily-spotted quasi-Superman outfit annually by wearing red shorts, a Superman t-shirt with the symbol in the form of a magen david, blue gloves and arm warmers, and my yarmulke, which I hope will still pin to my head in future years despite my accelerating hair loss.

And I was off on my 13th NYC, 15th marathon overall and my 11 consecutive NYCs intact (wow, I’ve done every NYC in this millennium!)

Mile 1: I spent it gathering it all in, breathing lungfuls of air and enjoying the moment. I peeked over at my sister’s house in Sea Gate, viewable from atop the Verrazano. I took in New York City itself with the landmarks I’d be running past in the distance (Williamsburg Savings Bank, Citibank building in Queens, etc.). I could not yet see the rising Freedom Tower. It will be nice to see it next year, hopefully. I also spent some time looking around at the t-shirt slogans, specifically targeting those proclaiming high-number marathon finishes. The most I saw was 24. I intend to eclipse that one day. Because of the packed starting crowd, I completed mile 1 in 11:19, about two minutes faster than I’ve ever cleared it before. Things were looking good.

Mile 2: Downhill, punch time. I completed it in about 8 minutes, and as a result, was already under the time on the 4:20 and 4:10 bracelets I had on my right wrist.

Mile 3: An 8:10 mile. I wasn’t even pushing it, just totally cruising. A question I’d been asking others had been answered. I had wondered if smarter training and more mileage meant that one’s natural stride would be faster or that one would still have to push harder to run faster, albeit with increased ease. It seems one’s natural, carefree stride is faster with good training, because man, I was putting forth the easiest of effort and not overtaxing myself in any way.

Mile 4: I started seeing some great signs from the spectators. One said, um, “Go, ” and “Go complete stranger!” Oh, cool, that’s me. Know what else was me? Another 8:10 mile, no biggie.

While zooming down this mile, I suddenly caught up to the 4:10 pace team and hung with them for exactly 2.1 seconds, when I realized that they were going too slow for me! So I outran them and left them in my cloud of dust.

I also noticed at this point, that the flags and runners getting the most enthusiastic attention are Chile, as the mine rescue had occurred just about a month ago and Edison Pena, miner # 12, was on the course today.

Mile 4.7: Ah, my first family pit stop. My Mom, Aba, sisters Devorah and Yenti, my niece Roizy and representatives from TeamOHEL, for whom I was running and raising funds with this race. I was asked to pose for pictures, was asked questions, was given a bagful of stuff and was generally overwhelmed with information and could barely focus. I don’t know how celebrities do it. I sorted through everything and only took a half bagel and sports beans. I spent less than 45 seconds there, as planned, and I was on my way.

Mile 5: I completed it in 9:01. Considering my family stop, it was actually around 8:20. Awesome. I also looked at my pace bracelets and realized that I was several minutes ahead of the 4:10 pace. Awesomer!

Now I’d been texting my status to Facebook every few miles and received a cease and desist from a friend of mine with the following text sent to my phone:

“Put the phone away and just run! You can set your PR and you know it. Eyes forward.”

He was so right, so right. I stopped the silliness immediately and focused on my race.

Mile 6: I decided to punch it a little harder and blitzed through the mile at 7:28. Whoa. I did not expect that. I re-did the math several times and yup, it was 7:28. Now I’d decided to go blazing through the first half, but whoa, I couldn’t keep this up. So I was thrilled with that but went back to regular pacing.

Mile 7: I was shaving more minutes off the 4:10 pace. It was looking like 4:03 at this point. Wow. All my miles were 8:39 or better. I was averaging per mile faster than any mile I’d ever run before.

Mile 8: Smooth like buttah, following through on the game plan. Taking small sips of water and not overdoing it. With a downhill, I was back to 8:10s.

While running down this stretch, a woman to my right spotted her significant other cheering on the sidelines and leaped into his arms Yogi Berra-onto-Don Larsen style. Very sweet.

Somebody is blasting “YMCA” over his boombox. The Americans - including me because it’s fun! - all do the familiar called-for arm motions, while several foreigners behind and around me say something along the variation of “What is YMCA? What is doing with arms?”

Mile 9: Downhill, punched it, still looking at 4:03. We entered Williamsburg and to my left, I hear a person say to his running partner, “Hey, there’s the SuperJew guy!” He then runs over to me and says, “Hey pal, this is your neighborhood, enjoy!” Well that’s nice, I say thank you and outrun them, because hey, that’s what I’m doing today, outrunning everybody.

Just so you know I’m not kidding, I found myself suddenly astride the 3:50 pace team? 3:50? Whoa, too fast, Bodek! Put those brakes on! Back into my cruise control.

I pass by a running fella dressed as a banana. Hey pal, whatever floats your boat, just as long as I don’t slip on you.

Mile 10: My dad, Mum, and sisters Chanaleh and Chaya Saraleh were waiting for me with a bagel and Gatorade. Exactly what the doctor ordered, yum. My dad asked me how I was feeling. I said, “I’m watching the scenery and cranking out 8-minute miles.”

Mile 10.2: The crowd in Williamsburg – as you might imagine – is not terribly gung-ho about the day’s event. Runners try raise-the-roof gestures to enliven the Chassidim, but truly, they don’t know what they’re up against. At this juncture, a runner desperate for any sort of regard, stops at a mother pushing a carriage with two children at her side and puts out his hand to the little girl for a high five. She looks at her mother, who smiles awkwardly and her daughter actually gives the runner an enthusiastic palm. That’s it, she’s now ruined for life.

Mile 10.4: My cousins are usually here, waiting with entirely inappropriate food (one year it was kokosh cake with seltzer, you must be kidding me!), but not this year. Ah well, moving right along.

Mile 11: Another 8:20. Totally crushing this. Still pacing for 4:03. It’s here that the guy with the “Twizzlers! Kosher!” sign stands, but I don’t see him. No biggie, next year.

Mile 11.5: Runner’s High, that euphoric feeling when running, envelops me like a cocoon and washes over me from head to toe. Thoughts of the finish line enter my head. 4:11? 4:08? 4:15? Sub-4:00? Don’t worry about it, I tell myself, enjoy the high and focus on a mile at a time.

Mile 12: The sun is at my back and the wind is nice and cool and I’m in a total comfort zone and I’m coasting. My pre-race efforts are paying off and my pre-race morning game plan is bearing fruit. I am in the zone.

Mile 13: I hit the foot of the Pulaski Bridge and meep meep! P’tchoo! over the ramp like it wasn’t no thang. Hills are nothing to me now after the Relay Race and hill training and quarter-mile uphill climbs in my neighborhood. I eat hills for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Mile 13.1 Halfway! I hit the mark at 1:55:35. Convention says to double your half time and add ten minutes to determine your possible full marathon time. By this rationale, I should cross at just over 4:00, whoa. Dozens of tourist runners stop here to take pictures of New York City.

Mile 14: The first instance of any degree of pain sets in: a minor pinge in my left hip. I mentally bat it away, but improve my running form, straighten my back, breath it away and focus on the slow deceleration phase of my race. I drop it back to 9:30 miles and I intend to hold this until at least mile 20.

Mile 14.4: The Chabad of Long Island is here with cups of Powerade, but the crowd is so thick in front of the tables that they are, regrettably, not accessible. Oh well, next year.

Mile 15: I pop a salt tablet to prevent hyponaetremia and time it right as I approach the next water stop and the Queensboro Bridge.

Mile 15.2: My old nemesis, and site of my unpleasant previous run-ins with a Neo-nazi and a runner who collapsed of a heart attack. I’ve been bragging about my hill prowess throughout and I’ll continue to do so, because my training climbs translated into absolutely conquering the bridge and gliding right over it and into the long downhill into the screaming, sensational crowd at the foot of the bridge and up 1st avenue.

Mile 16: Foot of the Queensboro, only 10.2 miles to go and feeling awesome. I turn into the tangents carefully and run into the screaming crowd, but no high fives this year. I’m running in the middle and waving when I hear my name or alias (SuperJew, SuperYid, Jewish Superman, Super Hebrew, etc.) called, but it’s downhill here for two miles and I must retain my focus.

I notice a great T-shirt: “Run hard or stay home.” Well, I haven’t stayed home, so I’ll opt run for running hard.

Mile 17: The crowd is deafening and my hand keeps going up reflexively to acknowledge all the people hollering for me, but I am focused. Eyes forward, eyes on the prize, still cranking steady 9:30s. I am in complete obeisance with my game plan.

Mile 17.5: I pass up the water-soaked sponges this year. Usually they’re an incredible relief, but it’s too cold and it will chill my fingers. They’ll bug me for at least a mile, a nuisance I don’t need. Carrying on then.

Mile 17.7: My brother-in-law pit stop: I don’t see him. Shucks. I go from corner to corner but can’t find him. This is probably my fault, as I’m going way faster than I thought I would and am well ahead of the exact meeting times I expected. I did have give-or-take scenarios, so I’m giving (or is it taking?) an awful lot. He was to be waiting with a slice of pizza. I so wanted that, but oh well, next year.

Mile 17.9: TeamOHEL again hootin’ and hollerin’ for me and my teammates. I get more sports beans and some much needed Gatorade. Yum.

Mile 18: Steady as she goes up 1st avenue and past my favorite-named-band along the marathon route: Squirrels From Hell. Has a great ring to it, doesn’t it?

I swallow the first of the two newly kosher Hammer gels I have in my shorts. Thank you, CRC!

Mile 19: My hips have been fine, but I get my first tweak of pain in both legs at the same spot just above my Achilles and just below my calf. I immediately begin visual imagery, which is a technique I’ve used for years before I even knew it had a name. I imagine the blood vessels in the area growing little hands and knitting anything torn back together. This always helps, along with re-organizing my stride. A straight body is a painless body.

Mile 19.5: Over the new Willis Avenue Bridge and into the Bronx. The bridge was replaced earlier this summer and it’s boring as all get out, with a drab pre-fab support structure and bleh oddly sloped surface. The original bridge had so much more character and the carpet covering the iron grating was terribly amusing.

Mile 20: Time to take stock of how I’m doing. I go through each step of my 8-point plan and realize that I have adhered perfectly to each of them. Awesome awesome awesome. Like the great John “Hannibal” Smith said: “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Mile 20.8: Over the Madison Avenue Bridge into the Bronx. A DJ there yells through the music that the Chilean miner is reported to be experiencing some knee trouble and asks the crowd if they mind if he cuts the music when he comes through so he can hear the pure enthusiasm of the crowd. He gets a hell yeah.

Mile 21: I get that heavy feeling I experience in the final miles of the marathon. Considering that I’ve followed through on my plan - and specifically not overhydrated - I now am no longer sure what exactly is the cause of this, but I am committed to determining the cause. This is my homework to be completed well in advance of next year’s marathon.

Mile 22: It seems I’ve trashed my quads successfully on the downhills and I’m paying for it. The inside thigh muscles just above my knees are starting to feel like they’re fraying, but it’s too late in this race for this to keep me from my PR.

Mile 22.5: My usual immediate-family pit-stop, but my new little boy is only five days old and it would be impossible for my wife to bring out all our kids (We also have a 5.5 year old girl and a 3.5 year old boy) today. I miss them, but I hope to see them back next year. I especially miss my wife, who has been here for me ever since she knows me. I especially also miss my daughter, who is a delight to see as I roll in. I especially miss my big boy. Uch, I especially miss them all.

However, TeamOHEL is here again. I grab an orange and scarf it down. Another friend was supposed to meet me here as well, but I’d later learn that I must have missed him by approximately one or two minutes. All these misses are my fault. I am simply going way, way faster than I could have dreamed.

Mile 23: No more family stops and food grabs from spectators. That’s now done with. There’s nothing left but the impending park, on which I am pre-focused to take the tangents. I will not lose sight of this for a moment. The crowd will be thick and hollering my name and I’ll let my arm fly up in acknowledgement, but the eyes will be forward and focused.

Mile 23.7: Into the park and the beginning of the home stretch! Only 2.5 miles to go and a quick look at the watch tells me it’s going to be somewhere around 4:11. My thighs and hips are bothering me and I’m feeling that heaviness, but it’s going to be a PR by at least 10 minutes.

Mile 24: I’ve slowed to 10:30s. If I had my druthers, I’d never allow myself to do worse than 10s, but I’m battling the heaviness and it’s proving quite challenging.

Mile 24.3: Someone yells, “Go SuperJ – can I say that?” Heh heh.

Mile 24.7: I pass a woman whose T-shirt says, “Nasty Wife.” Now what would a person do in life to earn such a designation?

Mile 25: 1.2 left! Oh boy oh boy. Focus focus focus. Run run run. Ooh, my thighs hurt. Ooh, ow.

Mile 25.3. I exit the park and go screaming like a bullet train up Central Park South. My thighs are screaming back at me as well. So they hurt, so what? I’ve got a PR to set.

Mile 25.7: Oh man, a half mile to go. Just a half mile. PR, here I come, her e I come!

Mile 26: Here I come down the final stretch. The adrenalin kicks in, the thigh and hip pain disappear. The crowds yelps and roars. 400 meters to go. 200 meters to go. The finish line looms. Here I come, here we go, arms up in triumph and –

4:10:23! 14 minutes and 26 seconds faster than my previous PR! I had done it. I had done it. I had put together a year-long and race-long game plan and did what I wanted to do.

I roared at the cameras and did a little dance and came to a halt and suddenly, I couldn’t move my legs. Hey whoa, what’s going on here? They suddenly didn’t work! They felt like they were encased in cement! Uh oh! This was going to be a problem as far as getting to my pickup car.

I shuffled over to an iron barrier and leaned over. A medic came over to me and asked me if I was okay. I said yeah, I’ll be okay, I think, in a few minutes, but for now, I can’t move my legs. She said I should walk it off. I said they’re not working! She helped me move forward and suddenly the pain was gone. I supposed it was a temporary muscle-seize following the pounding, but it let up and I was able to ambulate as usual.

I got my medal, my blanket, my grub , walked a mile to the park exit, met up with my Brother-in-Law and nephew, went to Kosher Delight for my traditional meal of two burger delights, one fries, one onion rings and kiwi strawberry Snapple (oops, forgot my usual pastry). This kicks off my two-week junk food binge, which will be followed immediately by a redux and improvement of everything I improved upon during the last year. I may be going more barefoot/minimal, I will be losing more weight. I will be running higher, more and faster. And I’ll try to solve this heaviness problem. Also, I have to figure out how skinny people can stay warm. Man, I almost feel like gaining my lost 17 pounds back just so that I don't suffer like this.

Once at home, it took a few minutes to get up the twenty-one steps to my front door, but it was worth the effort as my kiddies welcomed me by wearing marathon t-shirts and jumping up and down waving the signs they’d made for me. Awesome.

And so my run is dedicated to my new little boy, Ranan Elisha, born on a good day in a right and propitious time. I hope to see him and his mother and his siblings at mile 22.5 next year. Long may he live, long may he run, long may he prosper under the sun.

Mordechi (Martin) Bodek,

SuperJ – can I say that?

My Bris Speech for My Son Ranan Elisha, n"y

Good morning everyone, before I begin I’d like to publicly and profusely thank everyone in attendance, anyone who has made an extended effort to be here, everyone who has lent us a hand over the past week, Rabbi Krohn for his fine work, and especially, I’d like to thank my mother-in-law, for all the help she’s provided us in its many forms over the past several weeks. She is so valued to us that my wife and I refer to her in e-mails as capital M, capital O, capital M.

I also am grateful to my son and my wife, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

It says in the closing psukim of Megilas Ruth: Vayiled ben l’Naomi! She’s done it again! She’s brought life into the world. Of course she had some assists in various forms: I got psicha about 17 times in the last month and the Rabbi actually vinched us that the week in which Ranan was eventually born should be the last week that anyone says bsha’ah tovah to us. Uh! It worked! And all the bsha’ah tovah brochas we received also came true!

Our boy was born at the most convenient time imaginable! He wasn’t born on Monday where I’d have to worry about wrangling a ba’al koreh and trying to figure out more kibbudim. He wasn’t born on Shabbos, he wasn’t born too close to Shabbos, he didn’t interfere with any of our scheduled commitments and board meetings. He did not keep me from voting. He did not force me to reschedule my pre-marathon physical, and of course, he wasn’t born on marathon Sunday or the week before marathon Sunday. Thank you!!!

As we all know, the mitzvah of pru irvu is the man’s mitzvah, but the woman does all the work.

This concept got me thinking about other mitzvahs where a person goes through a massive amount of effort and someone else gets all the credit.

The first thing that comes to mind is milah. It is my responsibility to perform the bris on my son, but since I’m not qualified, I had to hand it over to a capable agent. The mohel does all the surgical work and I get the points.

Shchita is another example. The food is prepared with precision (and the more chasidish, the better), but the consumer get the credit when he makes a brocha, because of the fact that it’s kosher!

Another example is kiddushin. The actual act of kinyan is quite basic from a chosson’s point of view, but the halachic details and edim and contracts and procedures are all done by the mesader kiddushin, who doesn’t get any mitzvah for his work. It’s all so the chosson can perform his obligation properly.

One more example is ner Shabbos. It’s the woman’s mitzvah to light the lecht, but it falls to the husband to prepare them for her. It’s not exactly a halacha, but it’s brought down in several sources that this is the husband’s obligation to ensure that his wife can easily light the neros for Shabbos. She has a million other stresses and shouldn’t have to worry about this one.

Looking at this list and other examples that I thought of, it was apparent to me that the most difficult “shlichos” to endure is probably childbirth, and the easiest must be the Shabbos candle preparation. Another way that these two contrasted was that there is a physical limit to the length of time that a woman is able to bear children, but there is none to candlelighting.

There’s a lesson here, at least for me. Now here’s the part where the men stick their fingers in their ears and say nananananana, and the women go awwwwww.

The lesson is that a man has to, week after week, for the rest of his life, for his wife, do the most basic task in the world on her behalf to repay the favor to his wife who endured the most difficult thing in the world on his behalf.

Considering this thought, in regards to my wife, it is well known what she brings to the table on behalf of our shul, of her community, of our children’s schools. Her involvement and random acts of kindness are legend.

Now you may think that she has spread herself too thin, but let. Me. Be. Clear. I have been fortunate enough to be the chief beneficiary of her benevolence, including the most incredible gift of three children.

I therefore declare to my wife that I will endeavor for the rest of my existence on a persistent basis to be worthy, and deserve, her everlasting love and eternal kindness.

So our son’s name is Ranan Elisha. It’s not Ra’anan, it’s Ranan. Ra’anan means “fresh.” Ranan means to sing joyfully. But where does this name come from? Who’s Ranan? Who’s Elisha? There’s nobody we know of by that name in our families. So why did we give him this name?

We’ll have you know that there are ten reasons our son is named what he’s named, and these are they:

Reason # 1. Because it’s his name. We believe that a certain form of ruach hakodesh is invested in prospective parents, and the name that is chosen represents the nature of that person. Naomi and I actually picked this name before Naava was born, and it would have been her name had she been a boy. In Freddy’s case, he was named for his great-grandfather, who had recently passed. So the name has been in a holster all this time, and finally given to our son.

Reason # 2. We love what the name means. Name definitions are important to me and my wife. Given a choice, we prefer to give names that express emotionally how we feel about our little blessing, and in Ranan Elisha’s case, we indeed sing joyfully, for G-d is indeed gracious.

Reason # 3. Ranan is the key word in my favorite Shabbos zmira: libi ivsoori yeranani l’kel choi! My heart and my flesh sing joyfully to the living G-d!, exactly how we’re feeling right now.

Reason # 4. His name is a nod to my three fathers. I’m sure no one but me has noticed that the second name of each of my fathers is an expression of joy. My father’s second name is Yom tov, my Aba’s second name is Simcha, and my shver’s second name is Yitzchok. Therefore, our son’s first name is Ranan, which completes this circle of joyfulness.

Reason # 5. It is good for a man to be invested with some female sensitivity. His name is therefore an acronym for the women that have immediately preceded him in life. Raish for his grandmother Rochelle, Nun for his mother Naomi and Nun for his sister Naava.

So that’s why he’s named Ranan. What about Elisha?

Reason # 6. He is named, in a way, for my parents. My father’s first name is Chananya, which means G-d is gracious. My mother’s first name is Chantze which means the same thing and our son’s name is Elisha, which means the same thing.

Reason # 7. Elisha is the name of the ultimate disciple. It is good to be a leader, but it is also good to be a great follower. My wife and I are proud of some of our accomplishments. Why wouldn’t I want him to be a runner like me or super-geshikt like his mother? That’d be awesome!

Reason # 8. Elisha is noted in Navi as a runner. He ran to do Elijah’s bidding and the bidding of his people. He ran to Elijah when he first met him and ran after him when he ascended to heaven. Additionally, Elijah placed his coat over him as a way of “passing the baton,” and when he went up to heaven he did so in a “chariot of fire.” Get it? Work with me, people.

Reason #9. This one was a series of silly puns that were vetoed by my Editor-in-Chief. So if you’re a sports fan, a running enthusiast or if you like comic books, I’d be glad to relay them to you upon request.

Reason # 10. Some of you may have noticed that our son’s initials are R.E.B., which possibly indicates that he might be a rebbe or a rebel, because we do have bechira in life, which brings me to my brocha for my son.

I should first mention that one of the things I enjoy about my extended British family is that the Brits take care to personalize their blessings. Here in the states, you get stock brochas. Before a child is born, it’s b’sha’ah tovah, once he’s born, the bris should be bizmanoh, at the bris, it’s l’torah l’chupa l’maasim tovim, once he gets to the chupa, it’s build a bayis ne’eman b’yisroel. Baw-ring! Very cherished, very appreciated, very valued, but boring.

So my brocha for my son is: you should make good decisions in your life. If you have a choice to be a rebbe or a rebel, be a rebbe. If you have a choice between tov v’ra, choose tov. And if you have a choice between chaim v’moves - and we are inevitably confronted with these kinds of decisions at some point in our lives – remember my son, that I adjured you on the day of your bris in front of all these witnesses, always always always, iboochartoo b’chayim, iboochartoo b’chayim!

If you make the good and proper decisions in life, I vinch you oon that you should be zoche to the first pasuk of the aliyah I received during the week of your shalom zachor:

וַיִּגְדַּל הָאִישׁ וַיֵּלֶךְ הָלֹוךְ וְגָדֵל עַד כִּֽי־גָדַל מְאֹֽד׃

The man grew great, and grew more and more until he became very great.

May you grow great, grow more and more until you become very great, and of course, you should be zoche l’gadlo l’torah l’chupa ul’masim tovim.

So I have finished a masechte in honor of my son. My family may have noticed that when I finished the masechte I didn’t send out my usual e-mail. This was because I usually dedicate it to somebody, but our son wasn’t born yet. I had learned it in honor of something sheloi ba l’olam.

But now that he has a name, I can finally declare that I learned it in his honor.

I should first say that it is an honor again to finish a masechte in my grandfather’s presence. He will be 92 next month, I’YH, and he now has over 70 great-grandchildren, and he just witnessed the marriage of two of his great-grandchildren. My brocha to him is that he should be zoche soon to have his great-grandchildren exceed the number of his years.

Let us now conclude masechtes Avodah Zorah, in honor of bni Ranan Elisha and l’chavod my zaidy, Reb Bentzion ben Reb Aharon…