Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Sara Gatz on Vayetze

As many of you know, travel is one of my favorite things.  From the moment I could walk, I loved to travel.  Actually, even before I could walk, I’ve been told that, instead of crawling, I used to scoot across the floor on my butt. 

I’ve have been to lots of places, like Italy, France and  California. So I was thrilled when I found out that not only does my portion talk about Jacob’s travels, but the actual name of the portion, “Vayetze,” means “he went out.”

How much do I love to travel?  Well, I have this interesting custom:  Everywhere I go, I take a picture of my feet.  I started doing it about three years, when we went to Washington DC.  I have a photo of my feet in front of the White House.  At this point, I have about fifty photos of my feet in some of the world’s most exotic locations.  I can’t wait for my class to go to Israel, so I can photograph my feet in front of the Kotel.

It’s interesting to note that the Hebrew word for a pilgrimage is “regel,” רגל which also means foot.  The three pilgrimage festivals, Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot, are called sh’losha regelim literally is the three feet.
That tells us that there is something spiritual about travel, especially when you are travelling to a holy place at a special time.

My portion tells us that too.

Jacob wakes up from his dream and says “G-d was in this place, and I- I didn’t know.”  He’s so overwhelmed that he said the word “I” twice.

He was not in any special place, just a clearing with a bunch of rocks that he put under his head.  But that is the place where he dreamed about a ladder to heaven and where God promised to protect him on his journey. 
This verse teaches us that everyplace we go is special.  The important thing is that we need to appreciate its greatness.

At this time of year, the week of Thanksgiving, we make a different kind of pilgrimage, one that we do, fittingly to honor the people we call the pilgrims.  For many, that journey is a trip back home, or to any place where our family and friends are gatherings.  For my family, Thanksgiving has always been the time when we would make a pilgrimage to California – we’ve done it every year except for two: Rebecca’s bat mitzvah year was the first.  The second is mine.

Sometimes what’s most special about traveling is that it helps us appreciate what’s special about home. 

Jacobs dream also teaches us that what’s most important about pilgrimage is not just about the destination but the steps along the way.  Each rung on that ladder to heaven was as important as making it to the top or bottom.

That’s why photos are so important.  They can help us appreciate where we’ve been – each step along the way.  Now there are some people who just can’t stop taking pictures and it can get annoying at times.  But when we look back, we always appreciate them!

It’s interesting that one of Gods’ names is makom which also means place.  So Jacob was right. God is in this place, but we usually don’t realize it.  Every place we go is connected to God.

For mitzvah project, I’m going to be working with special needs children at Friendship Circle. I’ve already completed the training process.  I chose this project because I am inspired by my cousin Tyler, who is here today.  I can tell you that whoever I end up working with, when we get together, God will be in that place – and I will know it.

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