Saturday, June 11, 2011

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Sean Rose on Beha'alotcha

Shabbat Shalom

I am a big fan of Jewish holidays; I love them so much that I actually have three favorites: Hanukkah, Passover and Purim.

Of those three, two have a connection to my portion…sort of.

My haftarah is the same one recited on the Shabbat of Hanukkah, because it deals with the symbol of the menorah, something also found at the beginning of my Torah portion. At the end of the haftarah, we find that famous line “Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”

In Judaism, the focus is always on spiritual strength, rather than physical power. So what is it that makes you strong? The answer is: discipline and self control.
So why is Passover one of my favorite holidays? Because it’s the only time my mom will let junk food in the house. It’s ironic that Passover is meant to be a time when we use self discipline to avoid foods that we like, like bread. But for me, Passover is my reward for the discipline I show all year long.

My portion speaks about that too. No, not about junk food, but about cravings. The people were sick and tired of just eating mannah all the time and they complained. They even talked about wanting to go back to Egypt. They wanted meat!
So God provided quail. Lots of quail. And they ate and ate and ate until they weren’t sick-and-tired any more – just plain sick! They were hit by a plague and because of that, the place was named “The Graves of Craving.”

After that, my portion contains another case where the lack of discipline ended up being costly. Miriam and Aaron gossiped about Moses, and Miriam came down with leprosy as a result.

The lesson is that we need to be very careful to control our cravings, or they will take control of us.

How do I control my desires and impulses?

Sometimes when I’m in a candy store, I have a yen to spend all my money on Gummy Bears. The way I stop myself is by imagining how sick I would get if I ate too many.
The key here is not just to live in the moment, but to be able to look ahead at the consequences of everything you do.

Of course, you can also look ahead to the good consequences of things you do. For my mitzvah project, for the past 3 months I’ve been collecting comforters, blankets and food for cats and dogs. If you are still interested in donating, you can still contribute. The information is in my booklet. I’m doing this because I love animals so much. I know that the things I do now will benefit them down the road.
The moral of the story – don’t eat too much quail, or too much of anything. Everything should be done in moderation. Control your desires and look to the future. That’s what it means to be a Jew and that’s also what it means to be a Bar Mitzvah.

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