Tuesday, March 27, 2012

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Abigail Bushell on Vayikra

Shabbat Sholom!
 There’s one special, furry member of my family who I wish more than anything could be here today. I’m sure you can guess whom I’m referring to. Yes, it’s my 7 year old black Labrador retriever, Maggie Mooch.
As many of you know, Maggie is a very unique dog. She was bred and trained to be a guide dog, but happily (for me at least) she failed her final exam. She had an undeniable tendency to be interested in anything but her studies, (unlike me of course.)For instance, sometimes when she’s hot, she will just lay down, wherever she is. One time as I was walking her, she lay down smack dab in the middle of Shippan Avenue. She also has a habit of jumping on people and lunging after other dogs. As you can probably imagine, these would not be good qualities for a guide dog.
Even though Maggie’s role nowadays isn’t to save lives, she has sure made my life a lot better and would have done the same as a guide dog, if she hadn’t failed out of guide dog school. But their loss is my gain.
Animals have a way of bringing out the best in people. Even on the worst of days, they help us appreciate the little things in life, like how a lick on the face can brighten your day.
My portion, Vayikra, also talks about animals, although not in a way that I, along with most animal lovers, would appreciate. Back in ancient times our ancestors would bring animals to the priest to sacrifice, almost like they way we would have a barbeque nowadays. The priest would slaughter and cook the animals, and the smell supposedly traveling up to God and the heavens as an offering. After the temple was destroyed, sacrificing was replaced with a much less violent act, prayer, which I approve of.
I can only imagine how hard it was for people back then to give up their companions, even though in those days they were goats and sheep rather than cats and dogs. It can really trigger deep feelings within a person, knowing that we have the power of life and death over our loved ones.
I for one know that I have the power of life and death over Maggie, so I feed her before I even look at my own food. I didn’t realize this until recently, but this is actually an important Jewish custom, a mitzvah. And while Maggie has never saved my life, she has always been there to offer a comforting hug or kiss when I’m upset.
But, there are dogs who do have the power to save a person’s life. These dogs are the ones who actually passed their guide dog exams. My mitzvah project, which is in Maggie’s honor, consisted of raising money to sponsor a guide dog. Not just any guide dog center, you may wonder, but the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind. These dogs are trained in both America and in Israel, but the commands they learn are in Hebrew. So their graduation, is sort of like a bark mitzvah.
         As I become a bat mitzvah, I have come to realize that my job in some ways is to be a seeing eye person, for dogs and other people, and that I also have the power to save lives.

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