Friday, February 10, 2017
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Charlie Schwartz on Bo
This is a very special week for me. Not only am I becoming a Bat Mitzvah today, but Thursday was my birthday.
Not only that, but Thursday was my birthday.
And interestingly enough, Thursday was my birthday.
OK, I think you might get the message that I was born on Groundhog Day. It’s not really a holiday (not the kind of day where I would get presents anyway), but I think of it as holiday and it’s kind of cool to have it as a birthday.
A few years ago, I saw the movie “Groundhog Day,” where the day repeats over and over, much like the winter goes on and on if the groundhog sees its shadow. That’s a good thing if your birthday is on that day, because that means that every day is your birthday!
What made this movie interesting for me was the idea that history repeats itself, demonstrating that there’s a lot of the past in the future and there’s a lot of the future in the past.
In my Torah portion of Bo, Exodus chapter 12 describes how the Passover festival will be celebrated in the future, and how the Exodus from Egypt will be remembered years and years from then. The only problem is that when these details are being given, the Exodus hasn’t even happened yet! It’s like the past and future get scrambled together.
That’s what the Seder is all about. It’s a ritual that repeats again and again every year, as if the Exodus is taking place over and over, every year – just like Groundhog Day.
We remember special days – holidays, birthdays, bat mitzvah days – and rituals help us to do that. The word “ritual” means to repeat.
One of the rituals of the Seder is to spill drops of wine to remember the 10 Plagues – three of those plagues are in my portion. My mitzvah project is a way that I am trying to eliminate three of the great plagues that affect our world – the plagues of illness, disease and loneliness.
I’ve made a donation to the Circle of Care, an organization that provides gifts to children who hospitalized. I’m collecting toys and other items especially for teens, since two days ago I became a teen – things like coloring books, hand held puzzles, Rubik’s Cubes, Amazon and iTunes gift cards.
Having seen up close the challenges my brother Eli has overcome, I know how hard it can be for a child to have to spend many nights in the hospital. When he was at Yale New Haven, I went a few times to visit him – I really missed him – and I know how much he appreciated it. I also saw how organizations like Circle of Care brought him toys and how clowns would visit to cheer him up. I know how much these things helped him and so now I want to pay it forward, to help end these plagues.
So, in the spirit of Groundhog Day and the Exodus, become bat mitzvah means to stand on a bridge between my past and my future. But even as I cross to the other side, my past stays with me. I will always look back on this day, even as I relive it over and over again. Every year at this time this same portion is read. Oh, and the cantor and rabbi have already invited me to come back and do my Torah readings next year.
It will almost feel like Groundhog Day!