Those of you who know me know that I love to laugh. They say that when you laugh the world laughs with you, and it’s absolutely true with me. I am known for my laugh. And whenever I laugh, people around me seem to start laughing too! Or sometimes they just stare, confused, having no idea what I’m laughing at. Sometimes, I have no idea what I’m laughing at. I just love to laugh!
I have several different kinds of laughs. There’s my nervous laugh, the kind that comes out when I’m on a scary ride or when I’m about to do a Torah reading… Then there’s my laugh when something is really funny, my laugh at myself when I do something dumb, like when I trip on my Uggs, my sneakers, my socks, or just about everything else. So rather than being embarrassed, I laugh.
Sometimes people laugh at their own jokes because they are afraid no one else will. I do that too, and it’s true… people rarely laugh at my jokes. But this really feels good now!
So what in the world does my portion have to do with laughing? Well, nothing. But everything.
You see, my portion talks about disease and how to cure it. And I feel that one of the best ways to help cure someone who is ill is to put a smile on their face.
For my mitzvah project, I collected 100 DVDs, 900 books and five boxes of toys. In total, I had 19 boxes. I brought them to the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in the Bronx and gave everything to Doctor Rick Abbott, who was the doctor that saved my father’s life six years ago. My dad was diagnosed with a non malignant brain tumor and without Dr. Abbott and his team, my dad wouldn’t be sitting here at my bat mitzvah here today.
I’m sure that everything I gave lifted the spirits of many patients. I know that when I brought the gifts over, the doctors were all smiles. They had a little reception in Dr Abbot’s office and thanked me for everything I had brought. There was lots of laughter and many tears. Laughter and tears always seem to go together.
The disease that is mentioned in my portion is leprosy, which the rabbis compared to gossip because it spreads quickly. In Hebrew, the expression used for gossip is “Lashon ha-ra” – which means literally “bad language.” But what about lashon ha tov? Can good words be healing? They certainly can, and laughter even more. The rabbis said that even simply visiting someone in the hospital can lift their spirits and help them get well.
But laughter is the most contagious thing of all – aside from a yawn. Did you know that people yawn when others yawn because it is an age-old way of showing empathy? Laughter is the same. When someone laughs, the whole room can feel your happiness and everyone’s spirits are then lifted.
Now that I am a bat mitzvah, I hope to be able to share my gift of laughter to make more and more people happy.
Author of "Embracing Auschwitz" and "Mensch•Marks: Life Lessons of a Human Rabbi - Wisdom for Untethered Times." Winner of the Rockower Award, the highest honor in Jewish journalism and 2019 Religion News Association Award for Excellence in Commentary. Musings of a rabbi, journalist, father, husband, poodle-owner, Red Sox fan and self-proclaimed mensch, taken from essays, columns, sermons and thin air. Writes regularly in the New York Jewish Week and Times of Israel.
Friday, April 8, 2011
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Stephanie Hausman on Metzorah
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Beautiful story!! Dr. Rick Abbott will be performing brain decompression surgery on Aug. 23 for my Chiari Malformation. I pray all will go well. I have alot of faith in Dr. Abbott. So happy your dad is doing okay.
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