Wednesday, September 17, 2008

TBE Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Justin Smith on Parashat Ki Tavo

It was a Monday evening this past June, under the lights at the Little League field on Vine Rd., when the coach gave the signal for me to come in and pitch the fifth inning. This wasn’t just any game – it was the semi-final game in the tournament of champions.

As I ran in from center field, I thought about the three previous years, when we lost in the playoffs. One year, we were up 4-0 in the final inning and lost. So here was our chance, at long last, to win a championship….AND IT WAS ALL UP TO ME.

With the tying run at second and two outs, 2 and 2 was the count. I was signaled the heat on the outside corner. I fired a fastball and blew it by him for strike three to end the inning. One inning later, I finished the game and we went on to win our first championship two days later.

I had been waiting a long time to win the North Stamford Little League championship. Then we got a bonus and won the city championship a week later.

At the end of the last game, the whole team ran onto the field to celebrate and then the North Stamford all stars ran out to celebrate with us. We shook hands with the losing team to show good sportsmanship and then we ran around with the championship banner.

These moments stay with you forever.

My portion has a ritual in it that is very much like what I experienced. The portion describes a special offering of first fruits brought by our ancestors to the Temple in Jerusalem, and with that offering they would recite a passage. The passage, which is also found in our Passover Haggadah, recalls how much the people of Israel suffered as slaves in Egypt before they were freed and were able to settle in the Land of Israel. By reading this passage, and by bringing this offering, they were less likely to take for granted the fact that they were so lucky to be living there.

The message is that when you want something so badly, when you get it, you’ll take it all in and enjoy the moment more than you would have otherwise. This was true for me with the championship especially because it was my last year in Little League, playing with Viking. Four other teammates are also moving on, so this was the last time we would all play together.

As a Jew, I know how important it is to treasure freedom, because my ancestors were slaves in Egypt. And it’s also important to be grateful for what you have and what you get in life, for family and for all the people you love.

When you appreciate all that you have, it makes you want to give more to those who are needy. For my mitzvah project I am collecting books to be donated to Stamford Hospital for adults and children.

In a way, my becoming bar mitzvah today is a lot like winning that championship game. I’ve worked so hard to prepare and today, after years of effort, it all pays off. And as I grow older and remember this day, it will inspire me to help people realize their hopes and dreams.

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