Wednesday, March 25, 2015

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Sarah Broder on Vayakhel - Pekuday

Shabbat Shalom!
  Here’s a story about me and my sister, Mia.  Like typical siblings, we almost always get along.  But once in a while we have silly arguments.  Usually it involves where we sit.  At the kitchen table, on the couch and, of course, in the car.

For some reason, in the back seat, we both want to sit on the left side. Me, because I’m a lefty and am more comfortable there. Mia wants the left side for one reason only; because I want the left side. Well maybe its because she is a lefty too, we are all lefties in my family. We get into massive arguments about this and it is not pleasant. 

Most arguments, like these, are totally ridiculous.  And yet we get into them.   And it’s not just me and Mia.  These ridiculous arguments go on everywhere.  We see them in lots of movies, like one of my favorites, “Freaky Friday,” where a ridiculous argument between a mother and her daughter results in their switching bodies. 

My Torah portion, Vayakhel- Pekudei indirectly deals with this topic.  At the beginning of Vayakhel, it says: לֹא-תְבַעֲרוּ אֵשׁ,בְּכֹל מֹשְׁבֹתֵיכֶם, בְּיוֹם, הַשַּׁבָּת

“You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the Shabbat day.”

One commentator, Rabbi Isaiah Ha-Levi Horowitz, wrote in the 16th century that besides the literal meaning of the words, this verse also alludes to the fire of anger. So on Shabbat, we should find a way to eliminate all the silly arguments that we get into on other days.  This can help us to avoid letting our anger get the best of us on other days.

I think this is good advice.  As one who has occasionally gotten into unnecessary arguments, I’ve figured out some ways to get out of them.

Here are Dr. Oz’s, I mean Dr. Sarah’s five bits of advice on how to avoid arguments:

1)       Before you say something to ignite the argument, pause for a second and think about if it’s worth it.
2)        Pause for another second and think of the consequences. 
3)       If 1 and 2 don’t work, and you say OMG I don’t care what the consequences are, pause once again, just to make sure.
4)       If even THAT doesn’t work, count to 10 and if you are still mad count to 10 again.
5)       Finally: be calm.  Really.  If you just live life in a calm way, you’ll never get into these arguments in the first place.

Interestingly, while some commentators see fire as a symbol for anger, one particular commentator sees it very differently.  And he happens to be my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great uncle, a very well known Hasidic rabbi named Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter, who was called the Sfat Emet.

When he looked at flames, like the fire on the sacrificial altar – flames that never went out - he said that they represented a raging fire of love that must always burn in the heart of every Jew.

So when we are told not to light a fire on Shabbat, it means that we shouldn’t argue, but we also should be careful not to extinguish the fire that already has been lit – the flame of love.

One flame that still burns brightly for me is the flame of my love for my dog Hunter and all other dogs.  In memory of my dog Hunter, who died this past September, for my mitzvah project, I worked at STARelief, a nonprofit organization that helps people who do not have enough money to care for their pets.  I hosted three dog washes at Pet Value and raised $1200.  I also collected dog toys, food and other necessities – even dog booties – and you can see some of what I collected here in my bima baskets.

No comments: