Tuesday, May 26, 2009

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Ross Lang on B'midbar

My d’var Torah is about the most neglected person in all of human history: of course I’m talking about…. the middle child.

Through all of Jewish history, either the oldest or youngest child gets all the attention – never the middle one!

Today we begin the book of Numbers, and when it comes to birth order, numbers count. My

Torah portion of B’midbar describes a census that was taken of the Israelites while they were wandering in the Wilderness. In that report, the tribe of Reuben is listed first, because he was the eldest son of Jacob. In the Torah, the oldest usually inherited from the father.

The oldest comes first, but in the Torah, it is the youngest child who usually ends up as the winner. When you think about it, all the younger children end up on top: Isaac over Ishmael, Jacob over Esau, Moses over Miriam and Aaron.

Meanwhile, the special Haftarah that we read today, on this day before Rosh Hodesh, is about David, before he became king. David was the youngest of eight brothers. Some say it was seven, but either way, he was still the youngest.

So either the oldest or the youngest always wins. So what about the middle child????

The subject of my being a middle child comes up a lot in my house.

My family thinks I use my birth order as an excuse to get attention. There may be some truth to that, but if you were in my position, you would too.

But now that I am a bar mitzvah, I need to get over it. I’ve now matured to the point where I can publicly admit that there are benefits to being a middle child.

Yes, it’s true.

So, in the spirit of the book of Numbers, here are a number of reasons why:

1) As someone who is both younger and older than his siblings, the middle child is very flexible and learns to shift roles very quickly. We also can see both sides of many issues, because we’ve grown up looking at see things from all perspectives. Middle children make excellent peacemakers. Moses’ brother Aaron, for instance, was considered a real man of peace - and he was a middle child.

2) Because of our ability to adapt, middle children usually make friends very quickly and often reach outside the family for significant relationships. I’m close to my family, but I’ve always been able to make friends easily at school. Whenever a new kid comes into the school, I try to become his friend.

As a certified middle child expert, I’ve come up with some suggestions on how to survive as a middle child. Again, I’ll list them by number, in honor of my portion.

1) Make trouble! That will get you lots of attention… but seriously…

2) Do what you can to stand out – in a positive way. Do chores around the house. I’m really good at that.

3) If you find yourself really lacking in attention, keep on asking for what you want until you become very annoying. Usually it takes about 25 minutes of whining to get an iTunes download, and up to a few months for a go cart. I think I’m wearing them down for that go-cart, though!

4) Be funny! Middle children usually make great comedians. When you are stuck between two siblings, having a good sense of humor really helps. Did you know that David Letterman is a middle child?

5) Don’t give up hope of standing out some day! Other famous Middle Children include: J.F.K., Madonna, Donald Trump, Barbara Walters, Bill Gates and Rabbi Hammerman. (He asked me to mention that – he needs the attention). Each of these people is an example of just how successful middle children can become.

But seriously, there are people in this world who really do need attention. Some of them are children in hospitals. That’s why for my mitzvah project, I will be donating toys to the children’s unit of Stamford Hospital.

In the end, I’ve learned that it’s not about the amount of attention your receive; what matters most is the amount of attention you give others. As I become a bar mitzvah, that’s something that I will try to do more and more.

No comments: