Thursday, September 15, 2011

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Simone Teich on Ki Tetze

My Torah portion contains over 70 mitzvot, more laws than any other portion in the Torah. Almost all of them have to do with relationships – between friends, parents and children, workers and employers and people and animals. Some of the examples given in this portion, though, may not be the most effective ways of teaching these laws to people living in our times. I’d like a show of hands: how many people here plow their fields with both an ox AND a donkey?

Just what I thought! So my job here is to help explain some of these laws using examples from my own life. Fortunately, there are lots. I have a very interesting life! But actually, examples of many of these laws can be found in ALL our lives, not just mine.

So here we go: Here’s my commentary on this portion of Ki Tetze.

1. The portion explains what happens when a child becomes rebellious. No, that child is not me. The treatment is very harsh – too harsh to say in most opinions, including those of the rabbis who later commented on it. But really, this mitzvah is talking about how important it is to use discipline and good judgment in raising a child. It so happens that I have just signed on to my first babysitting job. I am very excited to have a chance to babysit these 5 year old twin girls. Once I have experience babysitting, I’ll have my first glimpse at how complicated it is to be a parent. I’ll have lots more sympathy for my parents!

2. The portion instructs us to return lost objects to our neighbors and too show concern even to those we don’t know. So a year or two ago, I was playing mini golf with my mom, sister and brother, and as we were leaving and walking to our car, I saw something in the bushes. When I went over to it, I discovered that it was a wallet. I brought it to my mom to check for i.d. There was no identification but there a few hundred dollars in it. We brought it to the manager and he said, “You can give me the number and if anyone who has lost a wallet calls us, we’ll give them your number to claim it.” We waited for 6 months and no one called. We have used a large portion of that money to buy toys for David’s Closet and the Bennent Cancer Center at Stamford Hospital. Children undergoing treatment get to go and pick out a toy or gift from this closet. I hope that the item they choose makes them feel better. I had fun going to the store and selecting great toys for this kids to have and play with. Those toys we have purchased are in the baskets up on the bima.

3. Another law instructs us to lift animals when they’ve fallen. We once found a dog on the side of the road. He was just sitting there all alone. My mom told us to stay in the car while she went out to see if it had a collar; it did not. After she checked it just walked away and sat on a nearby lawn. We didn’t want to leave but it seemed like that might be the dog’s lawn, so we left. And just last week, my friend’s dog got through the invisible fence. We went running after it and we finally caught him. Even if its not always your animal it is always good to lend a helping hand to other animals and people in need.

4. Another law states that you should build a protective fence on the roof of your house. In those days, people had flat roofs and did a lot up there. In a similar way, my Dad has strict policies that whoever rides a bike anywhere needs to wear a helmet. The idea behind this mitzvah is that we are responsible for the safety of those who come under our care – and especially into and around our homes.

5. Here’s a strange law – we’re not supposed to wear things that mix wool and flax together. In fact, even in those days, the priests did wear wool and flax, but I think the idea here is that every generation needs to make its own fashion statement. And sometimes, its best not to mix things, but sometimes it is. As many of you know, I love fashion design, especially shoes, and I’ve come up with some nice, interesting blends of shoe types. Think Uggs with high heels. Comfortable… Ehh. But it’s a real possibility(sarcastic)! Well, maybe not.

As you can see, the prime message of this portion is that we should care for others. I’ve not only managed to do this with these examples but also through my special mitzvah projects, including donating my hair twice to Locks of Love and the Rocks for Brian project that you can read about in my bat mitzvah booklet.

As I become a bat mitzvah, I hope to discover more ways to apply the wisdom of my portion to my life.

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