Tuesday, May 26, 2009

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Jonathan Rich on Naso

My portion’s name, Naso, means “to lift.”

It’s a very appropriate portion for someone whose family has been involved in the moving business. But I found out that it means much more than just that. Because this is the portion where moving is a mitzvah. You see, the portion begins by describing how it was the special job of the Levites to carry the ark of the covenant which contained the two tablets with the ten commandments.

The ark was very heavy. One commentary says that it was so heavy that it took the strength of many men even to budge it. But then, the story continues, once they lifted it, it carried the carriers. A Hasidic rabbi once said, regarding a very heavy torah scroll that he was lifting, “Once you’ve picked it up, it is no longer heavy.”

Over the past several months, I have been volunteering at the Stamford Nature Museum for my bar mitzvah project. The first day I got there, I was a little scared and did not know what to expect. I even told my mom that I didn’t want to go. When I got home, I told her how much I enjoyed it. At first, cleaning out the animals’ living spaces was hard. After a little while, I got the hang of it. When I first saw the animals I was scared, because they were wild. Try cleaning out the stall of a Clydesdale horse – with the horse there! Still today, I am a little uneasy around the bigger animals, but it’s gotten a lot easier and a lot more fun. Just a few weeks ago, 12 lambs and two goats were born. Now I feel comfortable picking them up and holding them – I even named one. “Bo” the goat. I gave him that name after he put up a fight while he was getting de-horned.

The nature center is not the only place where doing a mitzvah might have been hard at first, but got easier and easier as I went along. The same is true at Hospice. Following in my brother Jeffrey’s footsteps, I’ve gone there several times. I was a little nervous at first seeing the residents in end of life care. But after a couple of my brother’s events, I got used to it and now I really enjoy talking to the patients. In fact, part of my mitzvah project is that I am selling bracelets to raise money for hospice. Again, just like carrying the ark, once you get the hang of something, it is no longer heavy.

When I was younger, I used to be scared of my brother David’s fastball. As we played more and more, I started even being able to hit home runs against him. And speaking of lifting heavy burdens, I want to pay tribute to David and all who are serving this country on this Memorial Day weekend.

Finally, what’s true about carrying the Torah is also true about reading it. When I first got my binder, I looked into it and said to myself, “I’m never going to be able to do this!”

Within a few weeks, I knew lots of the Hebrew and now I can even read out of the Torah.

So next time you think you can’t do something, try it a couple of times, and you’ll amazed how quickly you make progress. My portion’s title might speak about heavy lifting, but once you get the hang of it, there is no mitzvah that’s too difficult to do.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

Perhaps we can feature Jonathan or one of your other Bnai Mitzvah celebrants who have done innovative projects in our Teen Scene section of our website (http://www.areyvut.org/teen_scene/seen_this_teen/) so that they can serve as an example to others.

Areyvut- www.areyvut.org
Bnai Mitzvah Project Database-http://www.areyvut.org/project_ideas/