Tuesday, March 5, 2013
TBE Bar Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Edward Weinstein on Ki Tissa
Now that my childhood is over, I can look back at all the good times and bad.J Some of the best times have occurred out on the field, for baseball and soccer, and on the court for basketball. If I’m not in the classroom or asleep, you’ll probably find me on one of those.
In some cases, the most challenging times became the best times, all in the same game. I can remember one baseball game when my team came back from nine runs down in the late innings. It was amazing.
In my mind there were four keys to the comeback.
1) We were patient. We came back a little at a time, not just by swinging for the fences but by getting on base and starting a rally.
2) We never lost hope. Once the rally started, we could imagine what it would be like to win the game.
3) We stayed together. No one blamed a teammate or picked a fight. And
4) We didn’t give in to fear but turned the negative feelings into positive action.
In my Torah portion, the Israelites faced a similar situation. Moses had gone up to the mountain to get the Torah, but he never came back. For days and weeks the people waited. Many feared that he was dead. Finally, they gave in to the fear and built a golden calf and started to worship it.
The central figure in this story is Aharon. The Torah text sort of paints him as the one responsible for building the calf. But the midrash tries to explain his actions in a way that makes him appear less guilty. It states that Aharon was a great peacemaker and, really, he had no power to stop the people – but he did have the power to slow things down. So he asked for their jewelry, thinking that they wouldn’t give it up. But when they did, he melted it down, thinking that it would take a long time to build the idol – but the midrash says that some Egyptian magicians who left Egypt with them made the calf appear. Then Aharon stalled some more by building an altar for the calf to be placed on. But even then, Moses still didn’t return.
I think Aharon did the right thing in trying to stall – it’s a lot like the patience we had to show when coming from behind in baseball. He bought some time and hoped for Moses to return. It’s also important that he never lost hope, much like my team. Also, he never got into a fight with anyone – he tried to keep the peace so that things would not get out of control.
But in the end, I still think he should have prevented b’nai Yisrael from actually worshipping the calf.
Even though things didn’t work out as well for Aharon as they did for my team, there are some important lessons here that have helped the Jewish people through many tough times. And because of that, we’ve always been able to overcome our challenges.
After the Holocaust, miraculously the Jewish people lived on and three years later, we created the state of Israel. Our own history teaches us, time and time again, that we should be patient and never lose hope.
As all of you know, our Portuguese Water dog Jeter is a very important member of our family who also has taught us the meaning of patience. J Here in Stamford, there are many dogs and cats that do not have owners who can care for them. As a result, they are found at the Stamford Animal Shelter, hopefully waiting to be adopted. An organization called OPIN (Outreach for Pets in Need) was founded by shelter volunteers to promote adoption of homeless animals and support the shelter. As you can see on the Bimah, in response to their “wish list” we will be giving these baskets filled with dog and cat food, toys and supplies to the Stamford Animal Shelter to help them care for the cats and dogs.