Wednesday, December 10, 2008

TBE Bar/ Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Sophie Koester on Vayetze

Two of the most important events of my life have taken place over the last two weeks: today, of course, I become bat mitzvah. And two weeks ago, November 21st to be exact, an event ALMOST as important, the premier of the most important movie ever made..."TWILIGHT."

For those few of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, "Twilight" is ONLY the most popular, great, beloved novel ever written since Harry Potter. It’s about a human girl who falls in love with a vampire named Edward Cullen. I know what you’re thinking…A: vampires aren’t nice. Why would someone fall in love with them? and B: Why in the world is she talking about this at her bat mitzvah?

The rabbi was asking me the same thing! Well, it turns out that A: there are some nice vampires who happen to live in Forks, Washington. And B: there are many surprising connections between vampires, Judaism, and my portion.

My portion’s name, “Vayetzei” means “And he went out”, describing how Jacob ran away from his homeland and his very angry brother, Esau. At the end of the portion, Jacob is returning to his home, this time with four wives, thirteen kids, and a whole lot of goats and sheep. Just like Jacob, and the rest of the Jewish people for that matter, vampires are always coming and going. They can’t stay in one place for too long a time because people get suspicious that they never age. The Jewish people have been around for a long time, too. People have often been suspicious of us because of our ability to overcome endless obstacles.

As with Jews, there have been many false rumors and myths about vampires. These stereotypes aren’t always true. For instance, vampires don’t have fangs and they don’t sleep during the day. In fact, they don’t sleep at all! And, there are some who don’t even like to drink human blood. They live off animal blood instead.

According to the Torah, Jews are forbidden to consume blood. Unfortunately, in the Middle Ages, rumors went around that Jews used the blood of Christian children to make their matzah. This was called “The Blood Libel”, and some even spread this horrible rumor today. Because of this rumor, some folk tales have connected Jews to vampires.

Interestingly, for Jews as well as vampires, the most important time of day is twilight. For vampires, twilight is bittersweet because they are saying goodbye to another day and then welcoming a new one. Vampires celebrate quietly, sometimes going out and watching the sky. Jewish days also begin and end at twilight. On Shabbat especially, we celebrate quietly by welcoming the Shabbat Bride and we watch Shabbat leave us the next night by going outside and waiting for three stars to appear.

In the book, one of the major themes is risk. Edward loves Bella so much that he realizes he can’t get too close to her or he could harm her. The love between Jacob and Rachel involves similar risks. In both cases, though, there’s a happy ending. Both couples get married and both women lose their lives in childbirth, only Bella becomes a vampire and Rachel becomes a symbol of motherhood.

Another theme is change. Vampires can’t change. They can’t even have kids. But Jews believe in change, and that every new generation can help to repair the world. So as I become a bat mitzvah today, I realize I would much rather be a Jew than a vampire.

While each vampire lives forever, I also know that the Jewish people will live forever. As I become bat mitzvah, I realize that it’s now my responsibility to help make that happen.
For my mitzvah project, I’ve been volunteering at the Stamford Museum and Nature Center farm, feeding, cleaning up after, and playing with the animals who live there. I also took pictures of the animals there and created greeting cards on the computer. I sold these greeting cards, and I am donating the money to the Israeli Center for the Blind to sponsor a dog and to the Mo-Bear fund, which helps sick and neglected dogs.

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