Thursday, October 23, 2014

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Andrew Goldberg on Bereisheet

A few weeks ago, two important events happened one day apart, both are related to each other, both are related to my portion and both are related to my life.

The first thing, which you might have heard about, was that Apple came out with its new iPhones, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.  That relates to my portion in two ways: first is that my portion is all about Creation and creativity.  God was the first great out of the box thinker.  In fact, God had to invent the box first in order to think outside it!   I’d like to think of myself as an out of the box thinker too.  For example last year, I wrote a letter to Prince William, and Princess Kate, congratulating them on their baby and received a reply.

Of course the other connection to my portion is that the company’s name is Apple – all of which brings us back to the Garden of Eden – even though, I must add, the Hebrew word used there is “fruit” and not specifically “apple.”  But go with me on this.  In some ways, the products created by Apple are very similar to the apple that Adam and Eve ate in the Garden.  Like the apple in the Garden, the iPhone gives people added knowledge and power and potential, but like the apple, it carries with it dangers and consequences. 

Despite these dangers, I would like a new iPhone for my bar mitzvah.  Just saying.

And that relates to the second event.  A couple of days after the new iPhones came out, we had a special guest at school.  A state senator came to speak with us about the kinds of dangers that teenagers of this generation should be aware of when using social networks.  That includes people being able to track you down within minutes – so you have to be careful what you post and who you let follow you.  You have to be careful about what you say online, because once it’s there, it never goes away.  Even when we apply to college in five years, the colleges might be to track what we are saying now.  So the key is to take responsibility and ownership for everything we do online. This is also a reminder that we need to take responsibility and ownership for everything we do offline.

That was the lesson learned by Adam and Eve in the Garden.  When God asked them about the apple, neither of them took ownership of what they had done.  Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the snake.  In a sense this was their sin, even more than the fact that they disobeyed God’s command that they not eat the fruit.  We learn right away that people are going to make mistakes, and that’s somewhat OK.  But not taking ownership is a much bigger problem.  For example, when I get stressed from homework, sometimes I take it out on my brother, but at the end of the day I realize my mistake and own up and apologize to him.

Becoming a Bar Mitzvah is all about learning how to make good choices.  It’s not a quick fix, like eating from the tree of knowledge was supposed to be – but the lessons we learn from our choices last forever.

One very special choice I made was my mitzvah project.  I created and captained a team for the most recent “Hope in Motion” Bennett Cancer Center Walk.  I raised about $3,000 in my mom’s memory.  That was one way I wanted to connect her to my becoming a bar mitzvah and to this day.  And I know that as I continue to grow, I will be faced with many tough choices – and that she will be there, helping to make them.

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