Thursday, November 15, 2012

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Steven Yudell on Toldot

Shabbat Shalom.

Many of you know that this past summer, my grandmother Kathy passed away. I had a very special relationship with her. When she unfortunately was diagnosed with lung cancer, we thought it would be a good thing to raise money for lung cancer in her honor.  I organized a tag sale with her help and raised over 1900 dollars, on a cool March afternoon.  

My grandmother and her doctors believed that the cancer was caused by her smoking, even though she quit 30 years ago. One thing that my grandmother taught me is how important it is to think about the consequences of your actions down the road.

When I think about it, although it is very sad that she is not here, if she had not quit when she did, I might never have met her. And that brings me to my Parshah, Toldot!

My Parshah begins with Yitzhak and Rivkah who are barren, meaning they can’t have any children. They pray to god for children and they have 2 children.

These two children were born from the same parents but they took two different paths. The Torah tells us that one of the children was Esav, who the torah says was good at trapping and hunting.  It also says that he was very greedy and did everything on impulse.  He even traded his birthright for a cup of lentil soup.  Many commentaries say that Essav had little faith in life, and did not care about the future.  Unlike my Grandma.

The other child Yaakov, enjoyed studying torah.  He understood the long term implications of his actions and did not act on impulse.  This is similar to my Grandma because they were both concerned about the future and how their actions affected themselves and others.

Now, I thought it would be interesting if I related Esav and Yaakov to smoking.
Essav could easily have been a smoker.  Again, he did everything on impulse and did not think of the consequences.  He would have loved smoking because it feels good at the time but does not work out well in the future.

Yaakov, would have stopped smoking or never started.  He would think about how it could affect him or the people around him.  I know he would have been like my grandmother and found a way to quit.  Esav would not have found a way.
Because it is my mitzvah project and many of my friends and family are here today, it’s important for me to talk a little about the dangers of smoking:

Did you know that…?

Smoking is the most preventable cause of death in the United States. 

Smoking causes more than one in five deaths in America. 

90 percent of lung cancer in men is directly related to smoking and 80 percent of lung cancer in women is caused by cigarettes.  

According to the American Heart Association, most adult smokers started when they were preteens or teenagers. Unfortunately, many young people don’t fully understand the dangers of smoking and its potential affect in the future.

What is most important to understand is that smoking becomes a habit that is nearly impossible to break. It could turn any of us into Essav.

As painful and difficult as it may be to talk about this subject, I know that my grandmother would be very proud of me for teaching this to you.

Now as a Bar Mitzvah, I feel that Yaakov and my grandma should be role models for everybody.  We should always think about how our actions affect the future for ourselves and those around us.  This will help us have a more positive impact on the world.   

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