Thursday, April 30, 2009

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Alex Benjamin on Tazria-Metzorah

Today we begin a very special month, the month of Iyyar. Part of what makes it special is that it includes Israel’s Independence Day, which takes place this coming Wednesday.

So what does this all have to do with me? Well, it begins with my Hebrew first name, Lavi, which means “lion.” You see, one of the symbols of Israel is the lion of Judah, and that lion appears on the emblem of Jerusalem. Also, one of Israel’s most famous fighter jets is also called the Lavi. There’s even a kibbutz in the north of Israel called “Lavi”!

I’m named for my grandmother Lois, who died shortly before I was born. She had the heart of a lion, fighting off sickness for many years. For me, I had to learn to be a fighter right from the start, when, like my grandmother, I had to fight for life. My grandma also wanted a red headed grandchild –she said my dad was her best shot--- and here I am.

Actually, my hair isn’t really red. I guess if you were to limit it to the four basic hair colors, red would be the closest. It’s more of a strawberry blonde – some might say it is the color of a flame. And flames aren’t really red. Flames, lions and I all share a red-orangey mix.

Well, if you look at my Haftarah, chapter 66, verse 15 of Isaiah, it says, “The Lord is coming with flaming fire…with fire will the Lord contend.” So indirectly, I’m mentioned in my portion. Now, here’s where it gets weird. If you look up “Lavi” in the Hebrew dictionary, it will say that it means “Lion,” but another definition of the word is “flame colored.”

Lions are known for their physical strength and royalty, but in Jewish texts, they are known even more for spiritual strength and courage. For Jews that means the courage to care. I especially care about those who are hungry. For my mitzvah project, I organized food drives at my school and at the temple in order to donate to an agency called Person to Person. I donated a total of 1,330 pounds of food. I’m hoping to add some more to this donation to make it an even ton, starting with the baskets of food on the bimah today.

I wanted to end this speech with the worst pun possible. So… I guess I would be “lion” if I was to say wasn’t having a “roaring” good time.

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