Tuesday, June 15, 2010

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Rebecca Rakowitz on Korach

Now that I am a teenager, I am expected to be an expert at many things ranging from speed texting, to spending my parents’ money, to, of course, rebelling and / or complaining.

It so happens that I’m one step ahead of the game seeing as I’ve been a skilled complainer for a long time. In fact, I’ve been complaining my whole life! Some might say I was born a teenager – and I have the baby tapes to prove it!

There was this one incident where I didn’t want to eat my yogurt with a spoon. After to complaining to my mom over and over in my 9 month old way, I tried to drink it instead and it got all over my face and in my eyes. My mom just kept taping me crying…..she makes me watch it periodically, HER laughing hysterically and ME crying and embarrassed.

My portion, Korach, contains the story of the biggest rebellion in the entire Bible! Korach, acted almost like a teenager might’ve. After all, look what Korach does:

· He argues for his own selfish reasons, although he claims to be arguing on behalf of the people.
· He was unable to see the other person’s perspective because he thought his was the only and best perspective

It says in the rabbinic text known as Pirkay Avot:

“Any dispute that is for the sake of Heaven will in the end endure.
Any dispute that is not for the sake of heaven will not endure.
Which is a dispute that is for the sake of heaven? The disputes of the sages Hillel and Shammai.
Which is a dispute that is not for the sake of Heaven? The dispute of Korach and his entire congregation.”

This is an important passage because it reminds us that there are two liable sides to almost every argument- EXCEPT for when you are arguing for selfish reasons and, as the text puts it, not arguing for the sake of heaven”

So Judaism teaches us that arguing is good. It’s alright to disagree with an authority – AS LONG as you are doing it for the right reasons.

SO…..Teen rebellion can be OK!

I’m a big movie fan and I’ve learned a lot about teen rebellion from movies, especially from those old favorites from the ‘80s that I’ve seen countless times with my Dad, including the classics like Dirty Dancing and Ferris Bueller’s Day off.

These movies are all about teen rebellion. Ferris was a bit self-centered and went against many people including his parents to get what he wanted; a good time and a day off from school. Then again, it isn’t that bad compared to what Korach did. It’s much worse to try to seize leadership for your own selfish reasons than it is to skip school and stand on a parade float singing “Danka Schoen” in Chicago. In Dirty Dancing the young people are rebelling against authority and parents – but they had a higher cause: greater freedom and better treatment for the workers.

I’ve learned from my own experiences how important it is to argue for the right reasons. At school I campaigned for us to be able to wear sandals. With the help of complaints from other students and parents, we can now wear them – at least until the end of the year. When my principal didn’t budge at first I wanted to keep fighting it and protesting the dress code rules. My mom told me though, that you need to know how to pick and choose your battles and that there might be more important things I should be rebelling for.

I’ve been fortunate to be part of a pilot Bar and Bat Mitzvah Friendship Circle program, where teens befriend those with special needs. This is not a place where people argue at all but it really has taught me an important lesson that’ll help me when I do argue: you need to be able to see things from the other person’s perspective even if it is hard. It’s definitely hard to understand what a child with special needs is thinking but it is so rewarding when you “break through.” Imagine my joy when I was able to teach a friend something that is so easy and second hand to me but was so hard for him – like how to kick a soccer ball.

So now that I am a bat mitzvah and am ready to take on the responsibilities of Jewish adulthood, I now understand how to “know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em.” There are some battles that do need to be fought - but they need to be fought for the right reasons, for the sake of heaven.

No comments: