Friday, April 17, 2009

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Ben Lavietes on Pesach

Shabbat Shalom! Oh, and Happy Passover!

I’ll bet you’ve never been to a Passover Bar Mitzvah before. Well, I haven’t either! Well, it might seem complicated, but actually, Passover and Bar Mitzvah have a lot in common. Yes, it does pose some problems, but it also made me think more about my place in the Jewish people – and we Jews have always found ways to overcome challenges. For instance, there will be no Bar Mitzvah cake at my party. But actually, there will. It will be an ice cream cake! But it won’t matter anyway, because after two seders and a bar mitzvah feast, no one will be hungry for dessert anyway.

Another challenge was the candy. We always throw candy at bar mitzvahs, but today we had to use Passover-friendly candy. And we couldn’t just simply toss gobs of horseradish or chocolate covered matzahs. Now, I’ll compare Passover and Bar Mitzvah by looking at each item on the seder plate:

First, the matzah. The matzah reminds us of how quickly our ancestors had to leave Egypt when they were given the chance to be free. Well, I’m always in a hurry too, to get things done. I’m sure I’m not the first bar mitzvah student who was told to slow down. And, just as matzah crumbles easily, you can take the crumbs and turn them into matzah meal, which can be used to make matzah balls; or you can fry it up and make my personal favorite, matzah brei. But the most important thing is to not be in a hurry all the time, otherwise it won’t get done correctly and you’ll wind up doing it again.

The egg reminds us of the miracle of being born. My haftorah talks about the people of Israel coming back to life in the vision of the dry bones. When you become a bar mitzvah, it is like a new beginning to a Jewish life, since I’ll now count in the minyan and be able to fast on Yom Kippur as well as performing other mitzvot.

The bitter herbs remind us of the times when you think you’re not going to make it – the way every bar mitzvah student feels until the end of the process, when things suddenly come together.

The green vegetable is dipped into salt water, to remind us of the tears of the slaves.
Remembering is very important to Jews, even when it involves remembering sad events. Today I want to remember my mom. I didn’t really get a chance to know her, but from the stories I’ve heard from family and friends, I feel like I’ve known her all of my life, and I’ll always remember her.

The haroset reminds us that during sad times, there is always sweetness. In just a few minutes, when I’m done with all this hard work, the feeling will be sa-weeeeet, like the haroset. The haroset reminds us of the mortar that helped glue the bricks together that were used by the slaves. The bar mitzvah is sort of like the glue that helps to bind together the building blocks of my life. And I have lots of important people who have helped to make this all the sweeter here in Stamford, including my Dad and Diane, Rebecca, Jenna and Adam, Aunt Hillary and Uncle Craig, cousins Zachary, Nicholas and one soon to come, and Grandma Roz and Grandparents Joyce and Stanley. Plus so many other friends and relatives both locally and far away – but always close to my heart.

In the end, I’ve discovered that a bar mitzvah is like a matzah ball. The soup is the party, and the matzah ball is the service. Even though everyone enjoys the soup, what you really remember is that matzah ball. And the fluffier the better. And, like a matzah ball, once you finish your haftorah, you really feel like you’re on a roll.

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