Friday, October 10, 2008

TBE Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Alison Wolff on Parashat Vayelech

Shabbat Shalom and Happy New Year!

I always love this time of year because I get to spend time with family and friends. And now my bat mitzvah gives us even more of a reason to celebrate together. I’m just glad that my bat mitzvah is not on Yom Kippur, which would have led to a very long service and a very short party.

As important as my Torah portion is, it is also very short. It is only 30 verses long. But they are some of the most powerful verses of the entire Torah, because Moses is preparing to die and pass down his leadership to Joshua, after 40 years as the chief. I’m sure it wasn’t easy to do.

When you are so passionate about something, it is very hard to give it up. I can only imagine what it would be like for me to give up something that I love so much.

Something like dancing. Those who know me know how much I love to dance. I’ve dancing since I was three – ballet, jazz and for a while tap. I’ve always loved it. It helps me to express who I am and what’s important to me. Every dance style sends a different message and expresses a different mood. Each one says how wonderful it is to be alive, in a way that can’t be expressed in words. I also enjoy doing different kinds of artwork and each one is a different way of showing who I am and what’s important to me.

There are 613 mitzvot in the Torah and the last two of them are found in my portion. One is the commandment to gather the nation together to hear a reading of the Torah. At my dance recitals, there are usually as many people watching as there are people here today. Having lots of people there gets me a little nervous, but when at the end I hear everyone’s reaction, I realize that I’ve touched a lot of people and that I did well. Both the Torah lessons and a dance performance are pointless unless they are shared with others.

The other mitzvah found in my portion is to write a Torah scroll, just as Moses did. Since most people don’t actually copy over the whole Torah scroll, I think it means something different. I think that our lives are like Torah scrolls and with every good deed we are writing something new into it. And like Moses, by writing our scroll, it means we should live with a special passion, a love for what we do. So for me, dancing is the way that I write my own Torah scroll.

I also do it by performing other mitzvot. Last spring I ran a blood drive for Beth El Cares. I called almost every member of the congregation to get them to donate and in the end, we got 40 pints of blood. I may have been too young to give my own blood, but I feel that in a way I was able to write 40 different people into the Book of Life. I’ll never know who they are but it doesn’t matter.

When I called people I told them that it is very important to donate blood because it is a big mitzvah to save a life. To save a single life is like to save the whole world.

When I think about it, it seems fitting that I raised 40 pints of blood, since Moses led the people for 40 years. I tried to put the same kind of passion into this project that he put into his entire career.

As I now become a Bat Mitzvah, I realize that I am now a leader too, like Moses was. I hope that I will be able to set and example for others, both in what I say and in what I do. But as a dancer, I understand that sometimes actions speak much louder than words.

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