Tuesday, June 6, 2017

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Mickey Flaum-Souksamlane on Shavuot

Chag Samayach--Happy Shavuot!

Today I would like to talk to you about how both positive and negative experiences have the ability to leave an impact on our lives.

I am sure if you thought about it, you could think back to the most impactful moments of your life, and see how they affected you.    What made these experiences so powerful for you?

Powerful experiences are shaped when you’re part of an event that makes you feel something so strongly, that your brain imprints the experience and then stores it away.

The most impactful experiences are usually derived from fear, sadness, happiness, curiosity, or pain.

When these emotions are at the center, you are most likely to be impacted in a real way. These experiences can also shape your morals and stay with you forever.

For example, a moment that really impacted me was when my little brother Evan was born.  I was about three at the time.  Then later on, I remember teaching Evan how to swim.  The experience made me become more protective of him – and more protective in general.  I don’t let anyone pick on Evan – except for me!

The Torah reading I read for you today describes what most would call the most impactful of all experiences in Jewish history because this is when the Jews received the Torah.  It’s found in Exodus chapters 19 and 20.

One aspect of the scene at Mount Sinai is especially curious.

It states in chapter 19, verse 17: “Moses led the people out of the camp toward God and they stood at the bottom of the mountain.”

The Midrash interprets the phrase ‘bottom of the mountain’ quite literally: the people were standing, not at the foot of the mountain, but underneath it.

The Midrash continues, saying,

“The Holy One held the mountain over them like a bucket and warned them: If you accept the Torah — good. And if not — here you will be buried.” (Shabbat 88a)”

Imagine the pressure they felt at that moment.  It’s amazing how the Midrash uses the term bucket to describe the mountain, because the Israelites must have felt the same pressure under the mountain as Michael Jordan felt in game six of the NBA finals against the Utah Jazz when he made the game winning bucket.

Overcoming pressure and hardship is what makes an experience truly impactful – the key is to take that hardship and turn it into a positive.

Specifically, as I stand here, I remember my mother explaining to me the hardships that my grand-mother went through, and how those hardships ultimately led her to her untimely death.  After my grandpa died of a heart attack when my mom was 4, my grandma got super depressed and committed suicide while my mom was still young.

My Bar Mitzvah project is to spread suicide awareness in memory of my grandma by raising money.

Suicide is a big problem that needs to be fixed:
  • Each year, 44,193 people die by suicide,
  • There are an average of 25 attempts for every suicide that results in death.
  • More people die by suicide than by homicide in the United States.
  • Suicide is the tenth-leading cause of death across all ages
  • In addition, for the age range of 10-34 suicide is the second leading cause of death.
  • Suicide costs the US $44 billion a year
I’ve put together a list of suicide prevention programs that you can donate to online.

On this Shavuot, I am accepting the Torah, just as the entire Jewish people accepted it thousands of years ago, which is just a little bit longer than Dirk Nowitzki has been in the NBA.  I’m proud to be celebrating my bar mitzvah on this special holiday.

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