A Mayoral Mechira

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mechira1Brent Eisen and Michael Hancock met in an unusual way—both suffered injuries playing on the same football team the summer before they started high school. Their coach made them both team managers for the rest of the season so that they could participate from the sidelines. That summer they developed a close relationship that was to last a lifetime. They remained friends throughout high school and when Michael attended college in Nebraska and Brent attended college in Iowa, the two friends would visit each other regularly.

From a young age, Michael had his sights set on becoming Mayor of Denver. He was a born leader and served in numerous leadership roles throughout school. When Brent brought Michael home, Brent’s father would jokingly call him Mr. Mayor. Years later, following a life in politics, Mr. Hancock fulfilled his dream when he was elected as the Mayor of Denver.

Mayor Hancock has developed a strong relationship with the Denver Jewish community and a love for Israel, having traveled there with the local Jewish Federation. On that trip he was briefed by the Israeli military and given a strong understanding of the place Israel holds in the Middle East. He has commented that this trip was one of his personal favorites and he can’t wait to return.

At the same time Brent was about to pursue his own journey. Brent got married and had children. As a family they identified as Jews, but not frum. As a young parent, Brent became more interested in Judaism and started taking classes at the Denver Community Kollel, Aish Denver, and The Jewish Experience.

When their oldest son, Jake, was six years old, they sent him to a local Orthodox day camp in Denver. One day Jake came home wanting to wear tzitzit. After much deliberation, Brent and his wife Jolie decided that they would agree to his request. The only remaining question for them was how they could let their son wear tzitzit if Brent himself was not wearing them. That night Brent went online and ordered pairs for both of them.

When their twin daughters were ready for kindergarten they decided to send them for a year to an Orthodox school called DAT (Denver Academy of Torah). They told the admissions director that this was only for one year and then the twins would switch to a different school. As the year progressed and Brent and Jolie saw how much Torah their children were learning they began to have second thoughts.

They asked their daughters whether they wanted to stay at DAT. Jake, the older brother, who was now in second grade overheard this conversation and became jealous. He said it was not fair that he saw his sisters learning how to bench and daven and he was not given that privilege. The next year Jake switched to the school as well. The family continued to grow spiritually, eventually deciding not to drive to shul and moving within the boundaries of their local eruv so they could attend the DAT Minyan, a shul affiliated with the day school. Brent is now heavily involved and serves on the shul board. He has continued to maintain a close friendship with Mayor Hancock.

A few weeks before Pesach, Brent received a phone call from his Rabbi, Daniel Alter, of the DAT Minyan. Aware of his relationship with the Mayor, Rabbi Alter asked him if he could ask the Mayor to buy the community’s chometz on Pesach.

Brent called his friend the Mayor and asked him this question. The Mayor burst into laughter. After a few seconds, and realizing that Brent was not laughing, the Mayor asked him “Wait, you are being serious?” Brent explained to him that he was very serious and that this was a serious sale. After explaining the goals and process of mechirat chometz, the Mayor responded that he would be honored to participate.

Brent worked with the mayor’s schedule to find a way to ensure that he would be available at the right time. This task proved complicated but the mayor’s office went out of its way to schedule the right times to do the mechira. On Thursday night, Rabbi Alter met with the mayor, spent some time teaching him a lesson in the laws of the moadim (holidays) and Choshen Mishpat (the various kinyanim that need to be used). The mayor was fascinated by this entire topic. He then bought the chometz of all the shul members who were travelling east for Yom Tov and needed their chometz sold earlier.

The Friday morning transaction proved to be slightly more complicated. Rabbi Alter, Brent, and a second witness had to visit the Mayor that morning at the Denver Athletic Club where the Mayor was working out. The mayor interrupted his workout to come outside and buy the remaining chometz of members in the community.

On motzaei yom tov, Brent and Rabbi Alter ran out of shul and drove downtown to the Denver Performing Arts Center, where the Mayor was attending a show. Brent texted the Mayor who left the show to come sit with them. Rabbi Alter asked the Mayor if he wanted to keep the chometz. The Mayor decided that he did not want to keep the chometz and agreed to return it to its original owners.

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.