Sunday, November 20, 2011

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Shaina Lubliner on Sukkot

Those who know me know that I love theater. My mom passed that love on to me when I was very young. I remember my first acting experience, at Curtain Call when I was about six. It was a medley of Disney songs. Since then, I’ve been in over a dozen shows and I’ve seen lots more, on and off Broadway.

There are a lot of similarities between my showbiz career and becoming a bat mitzvah. There are lots of lines to learn, hours and hours of practice and rehearsal, the butterflies of opening night and one other thing. When you finish a show, the experience stays with you long after the lights have gone down. When this service is finished, I’ll always remember this day, but even more so, I’ll remember the lessons I’ve learned in preparing for it.

Add to all this drama one more thing. This is the festival of Sukkot, which involves more choreography and staging than a production of Les Miz. We wave the Lulav on other days of the festival and march around the sanctuary. Out there is the set for this drama, the sukkah, where we’ll be going at the end of the service. And there are special readings for Sukkot, including one that we did earlier in this service, a selection from the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, or, as it’s called in Hebrew, Kohelet.

Kohelet is a very old book filled with very modern wisdom, and many of the pieces if advice it gives remind me of shows that I’ve seen and participated in.

For example, the verse, “The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns unto God who gave it.” This reminds me of the musical, “Once on this Island,” which speaks how when we die we return to nature.

Kohelet also said, “One who loves money will never be satisfied.” I played an orphan in a production of “Annie” at Curtain Call. In that show, both the bad guys and even the hero, Daddy Warbucks, need to learn that lesson.

I was also in the all-school production of “Fiddler on the Roof” a couple of years ago, playing one of Tevya’s daughters. Kohelet must have had Anatevka in mind when he wrote, “Enjoy life with the one you love all the fleeting days of your life that have been granted you under the sun.”

One of my favorite musicals, Pippin, actually has a song that begins with a line from Ecclesiastes. Pippin, the prince, is trying to figure out his place in the world, much as a bar or bat mitzvah does. So he sings, “Everything has its season, everything has it’s time; show me a reason and I'll soon show you a rhyme.”

How many of you have seen and loved the musical “Wicked,” like me? (PAUSE). I first saw it when I was about ten, and I found it so thought provoking that I couldn’t stop thinking about it all the way home on the train. How is it that someone we’ve always thought was evil, the Wicked Witch, could turn out to be good? And how could the ones we thought were good, actually be so selfish? I think Kohelet asked the same types of questions when he wrote, “There is not one righteous person on earth who does only good and never sins.”

This teaches us that no one is perfect and we should not judge a book by its cover – even if that cover happens to be green.

Finally, “Eat your bread in gladness and drink your wine in joy,” says Kohelet. Which is sort of what I sang when I played the role of Balloo in the JCC’s production of “The Jungle Book.” All you need to get by are the “bare necessities” of life, things like good friends and family, which is what I have here today.

For my mitzvah project, I’ve been raising scholarship money so that other children will have the opportunity to participate in Curtain Call, so that they can share in my passion for theater.

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