Tuesday, May 12, 2015

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Justin Kaplan on Behar - Behukotai

Last October, my family decided to get a dog from a rescue center.  I’ve always dreamed of having one.  My mom went on the website and they posted photos of a few dogs and as soon as I saw her, I knew she was the one.  We have no idea what breed she is, but we know she has hound in her because of her speed.  Maya is lightning-quick and her nose sticks out like a hound. 
                On the website she was known by her original name – Charity. 
                Within a week we brought her home and we haven’t regretted it for a moment, because of how loving and fun she is.  She’s made a huge difference in our lives.  True, she’s not totally housebroken yet – but that just gives us a goal to work toward.
                Maya was the inspiration for my mitzvah project.  I am raising money to donate to Second Chance Rescue, the organization that gave us Maya.  Second Chance was formed in 2009 on the firm belief that all animals deserve to be loved and cared for, and no animal should ever be abused, neglected or homeless. Their mission is to facilitate the adoption/rehoming of animals that have been abandoned, or given up by their former owners, and to place them in new loving homes.
                My portion describes an ideal society, one where people help one another and take care of other people, even strangers and slaves.  They also care for the land, even allowing the land to rest.  And also the give special care to their animals.  Everyone is included in the household.  The idea that even animals deserve a special chance would fit in well with my portion.  It’s clear from the portion and what I’ve learned from Maya, that animals are important contributors to that ideal community.
                These days, the closest we can come to creating that ideal community is at camp.  As many of you know, each summer I go to sleep away camp in Pennsylvania.  I’ve been going there for 9 years and have made tons of great friends . . . some of whom are here today.  Camp has helped me to become much more independent.  Last year, I only saw my mom twice every day!  Yes, she is the camp nurse for younger grades.  But this year, I won’t see her nearly as much because I’m moving to the other side of camp (the part for teenagers).
In many ways, camp creates an ideal community, something that can’t so easily be created back home in Stamford.
Nothing can beat the friendship that comes from living close together with about a dozen other kids – without driving one another crazy.
The key to that closeness comes from setting basic rules (like no stealing) but going above and beyond to not hurt one another.
The Torah recognizes that things can’t always be so ideal, so it says, try to make things better at least once every seven days (Shabbat), and once every seven years.  And camp allows us to create an ideal society for seven weeks every year.
And within those seven weeks, there are seven days when team spirit wins out over everything else.  We call those days “Color War.”  We get to play lots of different sports, which I love and in each one of them, we must work as a team in order to win.
I suppose that for me, the ideal community would be one that has the fun of camp, with lots of dogs and plenty of sports – and, oh, yes, where my mother is the nurse. J 

        Now that I’ve become a bar mitzvah, I hope to make the world a more ideal place for everyone to live. 

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