Monday, December 12, 2011

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Dustin Knopoff on VaYishlach

Shabbat shalom!

You know speeches are very difficult for me. I have never liked them. I was always the one who never practiced a speech but somehow ended up getting an excellent grade on them anyway.

So here it goes...

At this moment I'm standing in limbo, hovering between my past and my future. (Put small blue rug or blanket on the ground). Similarly to standing at the shore of a river deciding whether to cross or not. When I cross this river, my future will begin. But it’s not easy to cross such a large mass of water. On the one hand, what’s on the other side is unknown and scary. But at the same time, it’s exciting to have new adventures and I've always been curious to discover new things.

Where I am right now, is exactly where Jacob stood toward the beginning of my portion. He was about to cross the river back into his homeland, but it was a homeland he hadn’t seen in twenty years. He didn’t know how his brother Esau would react to seeing him. He feared for his family and his own safety.

I can only imagine how it must have been for Jacob. If I were coming back to Stamford after 20 years, I’d immediately go to see if the majestic theater was there or my dad’s office or even Mrs. Hammerman’s M&Ms! For those of you who don't know, Mrs. Hammerman always has M&Ms in her back pocket. But I'd also wonder what new things had come to the community.

Think how much has changed in the past 20 years. In 1992, there were no iPods, smartphones or even no Facebook! How crazy is that! Jacob must have been really fearful of what he was going to encounter. As someone who loves technology and looks forward to the future, I would have been more curious than fearful.

So Jacob crossed this river and while he was crossing, he had a wrestling match with what might have been an angel. I can relate to that part of the story as well. Taekwondo is an extremely important part of my life. I started 7 years ago and now I am a 2nd degree black belt. In case some of you think I'm pulling your leg… Here is the proof(Pull out belt). So I would have not been afraid to cross the river, even if there was a threatening-looking angel standing in my way.

Jews have historically been confident to move into the future. Jacob and his family were called Hebrews which originates from the word “ivri” (eevree) meaning “to cross over.” We’ve been crossing rivers for hundreds of generations.

Similar to Jacob’s, my family has also been quick to adjust to changing times. My grandfather has always used technology to help him work as a doctor. Along with my grandfather, my uncle owns a company that develops games and applications. He’s inspired me to explore the possibilities of new technology, things like learning code or developing my own apps. Someday I’ll develop a Bar Mitzvah app, which helps Jews with all their bar or bat mitzvah needs, from ordering party favors to learning torah trope. Afterwards I might even program a robot to replace the tutor, another to replace the cantor, and another one to chant haphtarah.

Steve Jobs is one of my biggest inspirations. He is a perfect example someone who had every right to fear the future but embraced it and revolutionized it. His views were expressed in a Think Different commercial: “While some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

With such inspiration from my family and people I admire, I am confident and ready to cross this river. (Cross rug/blanket)

For my mitzvah project I realized that there are other people who need my help to cross into the future. So I will be donating and collecting select foods needed to supply the local food bank. For without food the future looks a lot murkier than it has to be.

At this time I would like to thank those who have helped me get to this point and supported me to make the crossing of the river much easier.

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