My refusal to participate in this ancient, respected tradition was not especially well-received. In fact, it led to quite a few epic fights. One such fight between my father and I ended with him literally locking me in my room on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, saying that I could come out when I had learned my Torah portion.

The door went click and I sat back on my bed, fuming. I was thinking: Study my portion? Ha. I'll show him. I can waste hours in my room.

And that's when my eyes fell on the teddy bear.