Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Max Kitay on Ki Tavo

Shabbat Shalom!

Those of you who know me know how I love to skateboard. I was around 9 years old when I first tried it out, and I must say I’ve gotten pretty good. So, why do I like it? Well, for one thing, it’s lots of fun. I like the speed, the wind in my face, mastering tricks like an Ollie (which is sort of like a jump on the board), or a Kick flip, which is an Ollie, but once you’re in the air, you flip your board and then land on it. I can’t land it yet but I’m trying.

Which brings me to my point: Skateboarding has lots of similarities to Judaism, to my Torah portion and to this time of year before the High Holidays.
You might be interested to learn that Skateboarding is so popular in Israel that there is a new Hebrew word for it, just introduced a couple of years ago. A skateboard is called a galgeshet. It’s similar to the word for a surf board, because it’s like riding on a wave of air.

Skateboarding has taught me a lot about how important it is to never give up. At Scalzi Park, there is what we call a skateboarding bowl, which is a huge bowl with walls curving up the sides. It took me a long time to build up the courage to skate down into the bowl and up the other side. It took a couple of months, lots of trying and trying, starting from the bottom and working my way up. But now I can do it!
In the same way, at this time of year, Jews recognize that improvement does not come easy. As we set our goals for the New Year we also can’t give up, even if we fall short sometimes and seem far from the target. Right now, it’s hard to imagine that climb to Yom Kippur, but if we keep our eyes on that target, we’ll achieve our goals.
Another similarity between skating and the High Holidays is that, while we need speed to make it to the other side, there is also a need for caution and balance. In skateboarding, I like having the wind in my face and you can’t do tricks without generating speed and momentum. But you have to be cautious too. It’s important not to lose your balance.

We all are rushing so much in our lives, but in less than two weeks we’ll be slowing down for Rosh Hashanah, to catch our breath and see how far we’ve come. My portion teaches that our actions have consequences, for good or not. On a skateboard, every slight move or lean can change direction. In life, the same thing is true. Even the smallest mistake can lead to disaster. And even the smallest act of kindness can change a life.

I’ve learned that from my mitzvah projects, the Jumpstart Walk and Friendship Circle. They are great programs that you can read about them in my booklet.
Little did I know that when I’m on my skateboard I’m doing a very Jewish thing. As we prepare for the High Holidays, and I begin this new phase in my life, I hope that together we can all Ollie into the New Year. This has been, after all, a LEAP year. And as we take that leap into the next one, we can truly call these the High OLLIE-days!

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