Tuesday, October 8, 2013

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Marissa Young on Noah

Shabbat Shalom.

When the Rabbi and I talked about my parsha, Noah, we talked about comparing Noah and Abraham, and how Noah never argued with God about saving the other people.  Noah just listened to God, built his ark, and saved his family and all of the animals, but no one else.  In contrast, when God told Abraham that he was going to kill the people of Sod-um, Abraham stood up to God and he argued, begging God not to kill all of them.

So, if you compare Abraham and Noah, in terms we use in my family, Abraham is like me, who my family refers to as the Golden child, and Noah is more like Andrew, the bronze child. 

But after the Rabbi and I met, I thought, maybe we are being unfair to Noah, and maybe I’m being unfair to Andrew.  Maybe, just like the Torah tells us that Noah was a good man for his time, maybe Andrew was the Golden Child before I was born. Although Abraham may have been more impressive than Noah, Noah was still the Golden Child of his time.

Noah made a huge difference in the lives of his family and in the lives of the animals that he saved.  He might not have done everything he could, but he still did a lot.

There is a story of a boy who was at a beach and when the tide went out, he saw that there were thousands of starfish washed up on the sand, drying out and they were about to die.  So he started picking up starfish, one at a time, and throwing them back into the water.  A man walked up to him and said, what are you doing, there are thousands of starfish, and you’re not going to be able to make a difference.  The boy picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean, and he said to the man, “I sure made a difference to that one.”

So, how does this relate to Noah?  He may not have made a difference to all of the other people, but to his family and to the animals he saved, he made a big difference. And that goal of making a difference ties into my mitzvah project of volunteering at JumpStart and raising money for it.  I raised over $2,000 for JumpStart, and I also bought the toys in the baskets on the bima, which I will deliver to JumpStart this week.

If you don’t know about JumpStart, it is a preschool for children with special needs.  This program, and the people who work and volunteer there, impact every child who has attended JumpStart, and impacts their families too.

There is a JumpStart team of committed individuals who have worked and continue to work to change the lives of these special children.  My brother Andrew became part of that team when he did his Mitzvah project three years ago.   And while I usually don’t try to be like him, I am really proud to have followed in his foot steps.  I also hope we’ve set a good example for Jeremy, and that he will follow our lead, either by supporting JumpStart, or by volunteering for another organization that inspires him.  Whatever he chooses, I look forward to being back in this room together with all of you in 4 years to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah, and I know we’ll all be proud of the differences he will be making too.   

Most times, I try to be an individual, to think for myself, and not just go along following the crowd, like the animals did when they followed two by two onto the Ark.  While I know it’s important to act individually, I also know that it’s important to be part of a team.  Like my gymnastics team.  Like my family.  Like the JumpStart team.

Today, I am joining the team of Jewish adults.  I’m following in the footsteps of my parents, and in fact, I read the same Haftorah that my dad read 30 years ago, out of the exact same book that he used.  I read from the Torah, like so many other Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, and I read the same parsha, about Noah, that my Uncle Seth and my cousin Ari read more than 20 years ago.  And I am becoming an adult, accepting the same commandments and traditions that my grandparents have been observing for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years.

I still haven’t figured out all of the things that I’m going to do to try to make a difference in our world.  But I know that I can make a difference if I try.  The Talmud says that we are not obligated to complete the work of Tikun Olam, repairing the world, but we are not permitted to abandon it either.

The differences I make in this world might not be bigger than someone else’s, but as long as they’re just a tiny bit bigger than Andrew’s, I’ll feel successful.

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