Friday, October 17, 2008

TBE Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Commentary:Justin Virgulak on Parashat Ha'azinu

My portion includes Moses final poem to his people, which he read them just before his death. One of the verses there really hits home for me. It’s verse seven, where Moses says, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of generations; ask your father, and he will tell you, your elders, and they will inform you.”

I’ve always liked to ask my parents and grandparents about the past – especially when it comes to sports.

I especially love baseball history. I’ve tried to learn the lineups of every team going back over twenty years. My favorite player from the past is Johnny Bench. My grandfather and uncle love Mickey Mantle best. As for my dad, he’s always admired Lou Gehrig. They’ve all passed their favorite stories down to me and this year, with Yankee Stadium closing, I’ve learned even more stories about the great Yankee teams of the past.

Today is Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of Return. At this time of year, many people return to their synagogues in the same way that we return to old baseball stadiums like Polo Grounds or Ebbets Field. The more we connect to old things, the more meaning we gain from them.

The past has its place, but the past is not enough. I love hearing about the great players of another time, but the players are pretty god now too. My favorite players of today are Justin Upton, Alex Gordon, Joba Chamberlain and Josh Beckett (except for when he’s facing the Yankees).

I also love football and especially the Patriots, Saints and Redskins. One of my most prized possessions is a signed photo of the former Patriot quarterback Steve Grogan.

We’re always returning to those old stories of our parents’ heroes.

But history means very little unless it helps us to appreciate the present and inspires us to have an impact on the future. The commentator Rashi said that very thing about our verse from my portion, although he probably wasn’t a Patriots fan, since he lived in the 11th century.

So I know that someday I’ll be telling the next generation about my favorite players. I’ll tell them about how well Josh Beckett pitched in the postseason or how Joba heroically fought off all those bugs in Cleveland.

By having a healthy respect for the past we can help to preserve things we cherish for the future. I sometimes wear a t-shirt that says, “The record is still 61.” That’s because I was disappointed that those who broke the home run record had to do it with the help of steroids.

Similarly, by bar mitzvah and reading from the Torah I’m also helping to preserve ancient traditions.

That also happens by performing mitzvot. My mitzvah project, the Make A Wish Foundation, will help other kids not as fortunate as me to make special memories of their own. I’ll also be donation stuffed animals to David’s Closet for patients who are in the Pediatric ward of Stamford Hospital.

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