Tuesday, December 6, 2011

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Elise Schoenfeld on Vayetze


In the portion of Vayetze, Jacob flees his brother fearing for his life.
At the same time, he also fears the unknown, as he heads off to a
distant land that he had never visited before. The story in this
portion is how Jacob is dealing with his fears so that they will not
paralyze him.

I can relate to Jacob. I have also been to new places – like camp – where
I have not known a single person. I have also changed schools a couple
of times. The kids are great at all three schools I have been in, but
very different. For one thing, they dress differently. The schools
have all different cultures. One school had all Jews, and the next a
variety of people. It was a dramatic change going from one to the next.

And change can be scary at times.

It’s not like I’m always fearful, but when I do get scared, I’ve learned
a secret that never fails to calm me down.

The secret is MUSIC!

Let’s just say that I REALLY to sing! I sing in school – and not just in
chorus – but randomly. I sing around the house. I sing everywhere.
And I sing everything! As many of you know, I can go from Adele to
rap to Broadway Show tunes without skipping a beat.

At school my friends say “You’re really good!” At home, my sister says:
“Ellie stop singing!”
When I’m not singing I’m drumming. I’m always tapping out beats,
especially at times I when I feel nervous or fidgety. During the past few
months I’ve been doing that a lot!

Whenever I sing I feel better. It makes me feel I can handle anything!
For instance, I’m terrified of being on airplanes.
But when I listen to music – no problem (except when they say “turn
off all electronic devices” – I must admit that once or twice I have failed
to do so!

When I was younger and home alone in the house, and there was a loud
noise followed by the dogs barking, I would go up to my room and put
on my iPod.

Even now, I play music all night long. When I don’ have it on, I feel
lost. It’s harder to sleep. I can imagine what Jacob must have felt like
when he lay down to sleep on that rock – before having his famous
dream about the angels going up and down a ladder. I wish I could
have lent him my iPod. I bet he was listening to one, actually, and
that it was playing “Stairway to Heaven!!”

I find that music doesn’t just help me when I feel stressed. It helps me to
help others. When my friend was sad recently, I started to sing to her.
It just happened! I started singing “Just Whistle a Happy Tune” -
but of course, at the time I couldn’t whistle. And she started

I’ve come to learn that many of the prayers in our prayer book are
designed to lift our spirits when we are afraid. A great example of
this is the Sh’ma, which is recited several times during the day, when
you wake up until you go to sleep. It’s very comforting.

I also understand that while there are moments when anyone might be
Afraid, I’m very fortunate to know that I always have clothes to wear
and food to eat. Foe my Mitzvah Project I have been helping Person
to Person. After Yom Kippur, I helped to organize the food donations
that were made by congregants here. I went to Person to Person’s
warehouse and put food on the shelves. Also, I’ve been collecting
clothing here and in my neighborhood for the past several weeks and I
will be donating those clothes to Person to Person as well.

Now that I am a Bat Mitzvah, I’ve come to realize that you should never
let fear conquer you – but if you feel afraid, I’ll always be here to sing
you a song – or to whistle a happy tune.

Thank You!

No comments: