Tuesday, September 6, 2016

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Ruthie Price on Rosh Hodesh Elul

Happy Labor Day…and end of summer, and Rosh Hodesh, and month of Elul and, it’s not too early to say, happy Rosh Hashanah!

Wow, we’ve got a lot today!

Oh yes, and it’s my bat mitzvah too!

What all these celebrations have in common is that they mark times of transition.

Fittingly, in the Torah portion that I read yesterday (yes, for those who didn’t know, I also read Torah here yesterday!), it talked about the importance of festivals being celebrated in their proper season.  That’s true for Jewish celebrations and secular ones as well.  It’s hard to imagine celebrating Labor Day at the end of school, or Passover in the winter.  For the seasons to flow correctly, these holidays should all fall at the right time.

So why in the world are we going to be celebrating Rosh Hashanah in October this year?

A quick fun fact:  Jewish months are based on the 29 ½ days it takes for the moon to circle the earth.  Twelve months of 29 or 30 days leads to a 354 day lunar year.  But since the Jewish calendar also follows the solar year, which has 365 ¼ days, somehow we have to make up the missing 11 days each year.  The rabbis figured it out with a very simple equation – which I really found interesting because I’m a math geek – that if you add an extra month seven times every 19 years, it will all even out.  So that’s exactly what the rabbis did.

This year was a Jewish leap year, so we added an extra month called Adar Bet.  For that reason, the holidays seem later this year.  In fact, Rosh Hashanah falls on October 3rd, and the latest it has ever fallen is October 5.  So this is about as late as it gets. By the way, the last time it was on October 5 was in 1967 and the next time will be 2043. 

All of the special days we celebrate at this time of year mark transitions.  Labor Day transitions us to the fall, Rosh Hodesh transitions us to a new month, and this month of Elul helps us to transition to the new year. 

All month long, beginning at the end of this service, we will hear the shofar each day.  You are about to hear it officially for the first time since the end of last Yom Kippur.

Today, I am transitioning too – into a Jewish adult.  And I really am feeling like more of an adult today.  A few examples, A couple of months ago, on my birthday, I got an iphone which clearly means that now I’m mature enough to handle it (or at least in my mom and dad’s eyes). 

I’m also transitioning into a better basketball player.  I’ve grown about 4 inches in the past year (in case you haven’t noticed).  In fact, this summer, I was able to play on the 16 and under Maccabi basketball team and I think I held my own pretty well, if I might say so myself. 

Another example was my ability to perform a mitzvah right around the time my birthday.  I was able to be counted as the tenth person here at our morning minyan when I came for my grandmother’s yahrzeit.

By the way, you don’t have to be Bat Mitzvah in order to perform a mitzvah. Even six years ago, I came here with my mom and my family very often to say kaddish for my grandma.  Now as a bat mitzvah I can honor my grandma in different ways.

One of the ways I was able to honor my grandma and others, was picking Camp Risiing Sun as my Bat Mitzvah project.  This is a sleepaway camp for kids who have cancer.   I worked with the camp on creating a wish list of items that they needed for this summer.  I raised money by distributing the wish list, placing tzedakah boxes around school, and accepting donations on the camp’s  behalf.  Together we were able to purchase all of the requested items (well over $2000 worth of items) plus over $1000 in cash and gift cards.  I was invited up to camp a couple of weeks ago and saw first hand how we were all able to help the camp reach this summer’s goals.  I know that we made the kid’s summer even better and I thank all of you that supported me in my project.  

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