Wednesday, October 30, 2013

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: David Lang on Toldot

As you all know, today is part two of my Bar Mitzvah.  Since many of you were not at part 1, I want to tell you about it, in relation to my portion of Toldot.

My trip to Israel this past summer was a once in lifetime experience, better than I could have imagined, even though I was really looking forward to it.

So what does this trip have to do with my portion? 

Well, for one thing, my portion all takes place in the land of Israel, in places not far from where I was. 

Also, the name of the portion, Toldot, speaks to the connections Jews have with this land.  Toldot means generations – and I felt connected to many generations of my family and of the Jewish people. Even though I don’t have a lot of relatives living in Israel, everyone felt like a relative, even total strangers on the street.  Even at the airport.  When I got there, the man checking passports asked me why I was coming to Israel and when heard about my bar mitzvah, he said Mazal Tov!  Only in Israel will a security office say “Mazal Tov” when checking your passport!

The portion also has a real focus on food.  At the beginning, Esau sells his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of soup.  Later, Jacob and Rebecca prepare a delicious meal for Isaac so that Isaac will bless Jacob.  I find it especially nice that the younger brother receives the blessing and the birthright! 

But it’s the food that’s central to the plot here. And in Israel, the food is definitely important.  And delicious!  I came to love falafel and hummus so much over there that I would have sold my birthright for it too!

In the portion, Esau is seen as a back to nature type. He’s called a “man of the field.”  Jacob, on the other hand, is a student, a man of the tent.  Well, in Israel, you can do both!  I loved the beautiful scenery there.My favorite place was Masada and the Dead Sea, one of the most amazing places on earth.

And like Jacob, I learned so much – especially at a place like the Kotel, where everyone was praying and studying.  I really felt connected to that place.

 One other aspect of the portion reminds me of my trip:  Isaac was disabled in his old age – he was blind.  Because of that, he was unable to tell his sons apart.

When we were in Israel, I experienced a place where people have the chance to feel what it is like to be blind or deaf.  For the part about hearing, we entered a room where we had to communicate with people without speaking.  We had to learn how to show emotions using hand motions and facial expressions.  We had to demonstrate without words how a food tastes, how happy I am, or how much pain I was feeling.  It wasn’t easy but it was very rewarding.
       In so many ways, as you can see, my trip to Israel not only connected me to the land and people over there, but also, by connecting me to today’s portion and this second part of the bar mitzvah, to my family and friends, to my community and to all of you.

            For my mitzvah project, I’ll be working closely with my Israeli soldier Alyon to find ways to help the soldiers over there who put their lives on the line for their country and for the Jewish people.

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