Monday, March 23, 2015

TBE Bar/Bat MItzvah Commentary: Samuel Teich on Ki Tissa

Shabbat Shalom!

I love cars.  I’ve loved them from when I was really a little boy. When I was around 9 or 10, I went to a car show and immediately loved being there.  The newness and technology really excited me, especially since our minivan is celebrating its bar mitzvah this year. 

Mom, Dad -  It’s time for a new car!

Since that first auto show, I’ve gone to car shows yearly.

I love cars so much that the first movie I ever saw was Disney’s “Cars.” My new favorite is “Transformers,” where just about every character turns into a car. I used to collect Matchbox cars at home, car games on my X box, books and magazines about cars and of course we have cars.

I also love long car rides, although I often have to sit in the middle of the back seat in between my sisters (and I’m not even the middle child!).  I also like to travel and navigate.  I’ve been called the human GPS.

So you might be wondering:  does my portion have cars in it?

Actually, cars did not exist yet.  But some people might say that the Golden Calf was a lot like a car.  In fact, when I saw a gold car at a show, I thought immediately of the Golden Calf – and that was before I knew that the calf would be in my portion.

So why is the calf like a car?  The calf was worshipped as an idol by the Israelites when Moses didn’t come back to them quickly enough from Mount Sinai.  Some people think that people worship their cars in the same way – as a symbol of money or status – almost like an idol.

But when I look at cars, don’t see something that should be worshiped.  I see something that can be appreciated because it has a special beauty – and some very special qualities:

For one thing: Innovation.  We can appreciate the technology that keeps making cars more efficient and better for the earth.  And even little things like phone chargers, seats with warmers, keyless starters, DVD players, and GPS guidance system.  There are great technological advances and almost none of them are found in my 13 year old minivan!

There’s also safety.  Think of all the new things: everything from motion sensors in windows to rear view cameras break lights – Yes, cars have gotten much safer over the past, say, 13 years.

Also, cars can be appreciated because they are like a portable home on wheels - just like the sanctuary that was built in the wilderness, which is described in great detail in my Torah portion.    That was the world’s first assembly line.

Cars also enable us to express individual tastes.  I like sports cars, for example, especially maroon ones.  Our Subaru is maroon.  

Cars are not only fashion statements, they are political statements too.  But it’s not so simple anymore.  People used to avoid German cars because of the Holocaust, but now, Mercedes are built in Alabama and Chryslers are built in Germany.  So cars today really show how different countries can get along.  At least sometimes.

So for all these reasons, I believe that cars are not idols like the Golden Calf.  So since cars are not idols, I believe it is time for my family to get a new one!

For my mitzvah project, I’ve been volunteering at the Community Center for Northern Westchester, where I work at the food pantry and clothing boutique.  I will continue volunteering there hoping to make a difference for the families in need. You can read about the Center in my Bar Mitzvah booklet. Thank you for your donations.  A lot of people come to the pantry for food each week.  Hunger is a problem in Westchester, and everywhere else too.

As I become a Bar Mitzvah, I hope to discover more ways to apply the wisdom of my portion to my life.

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