Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Evan Kaplan on Toldot

Shabbat shalom!
My portion is about two brothers, Jacob and Essau. These two people didn’t get along well – they even wrestled before they were born, in their mother’s womb.  Later on, they became the founders of two different nations, or opposites.
They were like two halves of a whole.  Jacob was the scholar who stayed in a tent all day and studied and read. Esau was the athlete, the one who went out hunting. Though the Torah and Rebecca favored Jacob, Isaac, the father, favored Esau.
One day, when Esau came back from hunting, Jacob made a stew.  Esau was really hungry and wanted that stew, so he told his brother, “I’ll sell you my birthright for some stew and bread.” Immediately Jacob agreed, fed Esau and got the birthright in return.
Later, their blind father Isaac was dying and wanted to give his blessing to Esau, so he told him to go make some food and prepare a meal. While Esau was doing that, Rebecca, feeling that Jacob deserved that blessing, decided to help Jacob dress up as Esau and bring him his favorite dish to eat. 
 Jacob got the blessing and Esau was, to say the least, not happy.
          Boy, these twins really did love each other!   
They were total opposites, but maybe they are meant to represent two sides of each of us.  Actually I see a little bit of both of them in me. For instance, there are times when I stay inside to read, or study, or do homework while some other times I will have baseball or basketball practice or just a chance to do some jumping on my trampoline.
          I think that a lesson in this story is that we should try to nurture both sides of our characters – to be a little bit Esau-like and a little bit like Jacob.  That means being prepared to get out of our comfort zones. Maybe one of the reasons they couldn’t like each other was because they couldn’t connect with each other’s interests. 
If I were their therapist (and I would love that job), I might have suggested the old switcheroo.  Let Jacob and Esau switch roles for a day.  Jacob would do the hunting while Essau studies in the tent.
I think it would be great everyone could do this from time to time.
          You know, you may not think the NBA relates to this, but surprisingly enough it does.  What would happen if point guards and centers switched roles for a day?  That would allow each side to experience the other side and step out of their comfort zone. Maybe the shooters could pass more, and the passers could shoot more.  Imagine Rajon Rondo and Kobe Bryant pulling a switcheroo.
Maybe it would be great for republicans to become democrats for a day, and for Yankees fans to become Red Sox fans for a day. I think the world would truly be a better place if that would happen – although I would never do that!  (Would YOU, Rabbi?).
What if cat lovers could become dog lovers?  Or if rap lovers could experience classic?  Or worse, 70s music!  I’m not sure I could do that either.  Or how about having everyone wop lives in Alaska move to India for a week to experience hot weather.
As I become a bar mitzvah, I understand how important it is to try new things, always with an eye toward understanding how the other half lives.  If Jacob and Esau had only done that, history would have turned out quite different.
          For my mitzvah project, I will be working at the Yerwood center, helping little kids to play basketball. I will also tutor them in math and writing.  Through this project, I will be donating basketballs and materials to the facility.        

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