Tuesday, October 5, 2010

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Matt Arons on Bereisheet

Here’s a riddle: I look both forward and backward at the same time. I’m central to everything that happens but hardly ever noticed. And I’m always making snap judgments. Who am I?

If you answered a center in football, you are right!

Those of you who know me know that I have a real passion for football and the position I play is center. My team won the city championship last year and we’re the top contender to win it again this year.

You may be asking, why do I like to play center.

Actually, you may really asking, what’s a nice Jewish boy, a mensch like me, doing playing football at all!

Here are a few reasons why I play – and why I love being a center. I love playing football because anything can happen on any play – plus, you can hit people.

The center is literally at the center of every play. The play will not happen until the center snaps the ball. It’s sort of like God’s role in Creation. God snaps the ball by setting the whole thing in motion, and the play unfolds after that.

But like God, at least they way some people believe about God, the center can only do so much. I get things started by snapping the ball, and then I throw a block or two, but it will be up to others to catch, run and score.

Some might consider God to be more like the quarterback than the center. But even then, it’s still up to the rest of us to catch the ball. There’s only so much God can do to help us accomplish our goals.

So, in my portion, the signals were called, God snapped the ball and said “Let there be light,” and after six days, according to the Torah, a beautiful universe came into being. The rest is up to us.

Going back to being a center. What else do I like about it?

• I get to touch the ball every single play. Every play begins with me. not even the quarterback can say that. Sometimes I snap the ball to punters and kickers, or a direct snap to running backs – but no matter who I snap it to, it begins with me. And it’s important that I there be a real spirit of teamwork to make this work. The same is true with being Jewish. I may not be the most important person in Jewish history – I may not be Moses – but today it all begins with me. I have to play my role perfectly for the Jewish people to succeed.
• Also, I’m on the line every play. I have to concentrate on the snap count, because it is very embarrassing to mess that up, or to miss a block, or drop the ball or snap it over someone’s head. So there’s a lot of pressure – the team depends on me. It’s similar to becoming a bar mitzvah. You’ve all been counting on me to do my part and get it right. And timing is everything. Here there aren’t snap counts, but if things are just a little off it can get chaotic – like if someone throws the candy at the wrong time.

• Also, being a center requires courage. You have to have the confidence to get the play going, knowing that as soon as you snap the ball, you are going to get hit. Most likely, once you are hit, you’re going to go down. But every time the whistle blows, you have to get up, dust yourself off and go right back to the huddle to start the next play.

• Finally, a center has to have eyes in the back of his head. Not exactly, but he does need to sort of look backwards and forwards at the same time. He’s got to know where the quarterback is behind him, especially in the shotgun formation, but also where the defensive player is in front of him. The same thing is true of the Jewish people and being a bar mitzvah. We have to be mindful of both the past and the future. It’s important to look back at our history and learn lessons from it, and then apply those lessons to the challenges we face in the future, to take that knowledge forward in all that we do.

As I become a bar mitzvah this Shabbat, I know that I much more responsibilities to fulfill, and all the lessons I’ve learned, both in the Hebrew School classroom and on the football field, will prepare me for what’s ahead.

One way that I fulfill my responsibilities is through the performance of mitzvot. For my mitzvah project, I’ve enjoyed working with younger kids in the JCC basketball league and the after school program.

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