Friday, September 11, 2009

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Max Weinberg on Ki Tavo

Those of you who know me know that one of my favorite things to do is skateboard. I love it so much that this past summer I went to skateboard camp for two weeks and skated with professionals. I can do things like “ledges and rails,” which means that I can leap off of high walls (especially when my mom is not looking) and skate onto rails that are high and narrow. I can also tilt my board up and flatten it out so that I can skate downstairs.

When I’m on my board, I can go very fast; but it’s important also to stay in control and not lose my balance. At this time of year, we realize that even when we are not on skates, we are moving very fast. We’re all so busy. But in two weeks, we’ll slow down on Rosh Hashanah to catch our breath and take a look at how far we’ve come.

Being on a skateboard also teaches us that every action has consequences that we need to understand. To turn on the board, all you have to do is lean a little. If you lean too much, the board can slip out and you’ll fall down.

My portion, Ki Tavo also talks about facing the consequences of our actions. It addresses the time when the Israelites settled in the Land. It talks about Moses telling the people to donate part of the fruits of their harvest to the priests at the sanctuary. The food is then distributed to “the Levites, the strangers, the fatherless and the widows”. This Torah portion is about how Jewish people are supposed to donate, to give something of themselves.

Part of the parasha speaks about specific things that the Jewish people are not supposed to do. The portion talks about how if the Jewish people do bad things, they will be punished. It also talks about how, if they do good, they will be rewarded. Moses tells the Jewish people to “observe faithfully all the terms of the covenant, that you may succeed in all you undertake.”

So that’s why it’s important to give to charity. Some of the things that I did for my Bar Mitzvah to fulfill my obligation to be charitable were:

1. I’m donating the food from my bimah baskets and lunch table decorations to Person to Person. Because my Torah portion is about harvest time, it seems appropriate to donate food.

2. My dad and I chopped wood to sell to raise money for Operation Fuel. Operation Fuel gives money to poor people who cannot pay for fuel during the winter. While I’m warm in my house during the winter, I’ll know that I’m helping other people with their fuel money problems.

3. Instead of spending money on expensive invitations that people would just throw away, we decided that for every invitation sent we would donate a tree to be planted in Israel. My family is trying to teach me how to give back in a lot of ways. It is important in Judaism to give back in many ways just because it’s the right thing to do, and not because you think you’ll be punished.

I’ve also learned that from skateboarding. My friend Mike got hurt when he, Miles and I were at the skate park a few years ago. Mike fell and broke his arm. Immediately everyone started crowding around the bowl. An adult came down and said his arm was broken and we called 911. After Mike went to the hospital, Miles’s mom took us to the hospital so we could stay with him. We did the good thing----instead of continuing to skate, we went to the emergency room to be with our friend. Being charitable can also mean giving your time.

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