Sunday, May 7, 2017
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Brandon Shapiro on Ahare Mot - Kedoshim
As many of you know, my family and I love to ski. I’ve been skiing since I was a toddler and because of that, I’m about as comfortable on skis as I am walking. I can’t even remember a time when I didn’t know how to ski.
You can’t beat the feeling of freedom when going downhill. I love the speed, as well as a sense of control… fifty percent of the time! And feeling the wind… conquering the mountain – I’ve been on every trail on Mount Snow.
I also love the family aspect of skiing. Being together, not only with my immediate family, but with my grandparents and uncle and aunt – it means a lot to me. When we are in Vermont we also spend time with very close friends. These friends and family are one of the reasons that Vermont and skiing are so important to me.
Mount Snow has become a second home for us. So this sense of home, of love and accomplishment, of being outside and connected to nature, and of empowerment, these are what I get from skiing.
By the way, there is even a blessing for seeing a towering mountain: Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, oseh maasei v'reisheet. Blessed are You, God of the universe, who makes the works of creation. So for all of you who have been wondering what I’ve doing in Vermont all those weekends, I’ve been praying!
In my Torah portion of Kedoshim, verse 14 of chapter 19 states,
לֹא-תְקַלֵּל חֵרֵשׁ-וְלִפְנֵי עִוֵּר, לֹא תִתֵּן מִכְשֹׁל
“Do not insult the deaf or place a stumbling block before the blind.”
There are all kinds of interpretations for this verse, but the plain meaning is that we should help those with disabilities.
Over a year ago my mom asked me what I wanted to do for my Bar Mitzvah project and I immediately knew I wanted to be involved with Ability Plus. Ability Plus is an organization that teaches children and young adults with various disabilities to ski.
For me, the mountain was my stumbling block, and I overcame it. So I can try to imagine how great it can for someone with a disability to overcome great challenges.
I’ve worked with about ten kids so far, ranging from about 6 years old to a student who is way older than me. And their disabilities range from intellectual challenges to some who are unable to walk. There was one who didn’t talk, and didn’t seem to know his right from his left but recognized colors. After problem solving with the other instructors we realized that he knew his colors. We figured out that if we put colored tape on his skis and yelled out a color he would put pressure on that ski and he would turn. This was very exciting to this boy.
It’s also been great to see students with their families. They are always very grateful for our help. I’ve worked with some of them more than once, and it’s been great to see them progress. I know I had something to with it and made a difference.
By the way, my mitzvah project also involved a ski-a-thon, where I raised almost $2000 for Ability Plus, and along with my friend, we completed 16 runs that day and tied for most amount of runs by a volunteer. All for tzedakkah! Thank you to everyone here that supported me.
So as you can see, I’ve been doing lots of Jewish things at Mt Snow this year! As I become a Bar Mitzvah, I understand how important it is bring these things down from the mountain, just like Moses, and apply them to everything I do.