Wednesday, October 20, 2010

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Emily Weinstein on Lech Lecha

Shabbat Shalom!

Many of you know that I love to travel – a trait I inherited from all of my grandparents. So when I found out that my portion would be Lech Lecha, I thought it was the perfect one for me. After all, the expression “Lech lecha,” actually means “travel.” God commands Avram to leave his birthplace, his father’s house, and his land to go and discover new places that he had never seen before.

It’s amazing to me to know that the first commandment God gave to the first Jew was to journey. That’s the kind of religion I could really go for! Even though it may be another 5 years before I leave my birthplace and my father’s house, whenever I take a vacation with my family, I can feel like I am fulfilling a mitzvah!

So going to Cancun was a mitzvah! Going to Paris was a mitzvah! Going to Zion? Of course THAT was a mitzvah… even if it was Zion National Park.

OK, so maybe it’s not a mitzvah to go to Cancun, but it is important to note that the first thing asked of the first Jew was to leave home and go somewhere else. I’ve had the privilege of doing that quite a bit over the years, visiting places like California, London and Paris. I also visited Las Vegas, which I would describe to you, but as you know, what happens in Vegas….stays in Vegas.

Today, I feel that I am qualified to be your tour guide, in leading our journey through my portion.

We begin our journey as Avram crosses over into the new land – and some say that’s why Avram got the name Ivri – Hebrew – the one who crosses over. Usually I recommend that you pack light. But in Avram’s case, the luggage limit was whatever you could load onto 80 donkeys and a few dozen camels. Soon, they have to leave Canaan and relocate to Egypt because of a famine. Realizing that his wife’s beauty could potentially cause his death, Avram asks her to pretend to be his sister.

As you can see, a trip like this always involves a degree of risk. I learned that first hand. Exactly one year ago today, I was playing basketball in school when I tripped and broke both wrists. And I wasn’t even travelling!

Travel can also bring about adventure and requires the ability to adjust to changing circumstances. In Lech Lecha, Avram went down to Egypt because of a famine and nearly gets killed. Then he became involved in a big war between groups of kings. Avram chose the winning side, freeing Lot, who had been taken captive.

As your expert guide, I don’t recommend getting involved in a war.

When I went to Zion and Bryce National Parks in Utah, the amazing rock formations really opened my eyes to the beauty of God’s creation. I was able to bring these WOW moments back home with me, and they really changed me.

I’m sure Avram was changed by his journeys too – in fact, he was changed so much that his name was switched to Abraham – and Sarai’s to Sarah.

So, I’m sure you’re all waiting to see if I recommend the places Abraham visited. Well, in fact, I give them five stars – of David. I recommend the Promised Land so highly that I am actually planning to go there – next February, with my graduating class at Bi Cultural – and I can’t wait.

My mitzvah project is also connected to Israel. I will be donating money to the Jewish Agency to help young people who have just made aliyah adapt to their new lives as Israeli citizens. Just like Abraham, they took risks to journey to the Promised Land. The other piece of my mitzvah project involved more “travel”! In fact, just like Abraham, I took a walk. On September 19th, as part of the Bi-Cultural Chesed Club team, I participated in the Friendship Circle walk and raised $445 for the program. The Friendship Circle provides social and Judaic experiences to children and teenagers with special needs. I am proud to have participated in this fundraising effort.

My journey here to my Bat Mitzvah has taken thirteen years. Just like Abraham in today’s portion, I make my covenant with Hashem to accept the responsibilities of a Jewish adult.

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