Thursday, November 2, 2017

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Aaron Eben on Lech Lecha

Shabbat Shalom!
And thank you everyone for coming from near and far to celebrate with me today.
My parsha is Lech Lecha, which translates to “Go Forward.” Lech Lecha is a long parsha that details the many challenges that Avraham faced. Avraham leaves home – leaves behind the safety of his community – for an unknown destination, led by a God that no one had ever heard of. Ultimately, this was the birth of monotheism and a great nation.
Despite all the unknowns, Avraham is able to pick himself up and move forward.  This is an important lesson for all of us.  For me, I consider myself a rather fast-paced person, always ready to take the next step. I just move.  Yes, I think first – but I always want to keep on moving forward. 
So it might come as no surprise that my favorite superhero is The Flash. One lesson I’ve learned from the Flash is how important it is to always be moving in a positive direction – living life forward and not dwelling on the past.
My favorite Flash story involves him going back in time to try to save his mother.  He manages to do it, but doing so changes everything in the future.  His life ends up being completely different and things fall apart; so he returns to right his wrong and sets things back to the way they were. His return back still changes his fate and of those of all the other characters.
The lesson he learns is that you can’t live your life backward – you always have to move forward.
Avraham does that on his journey. He learns from mistakes, which include family altercations and many tests from God.  Torah commentary says that there were ten trials that tested Avraham’s faith and leadership, and in the end, he passed them all.
In one case, Avraham’s nephew Lot and his family are tested. God has decreed to destroy the wicked city of Sodom, where they live, but allows Lot and his family to be spared. They run from the city and manage to escape just before it is destroyed. Though they were instructed not to look back,  Lot’s wife does and she turns into a pillar of salt. The message, of course, is not to look back.
Avraham was called the “Ivri”,  or The Hebrew. As the first man considered to be Jewish, he was a model for future Jewish generations. He showed them how to move forward from place to place, to face the future.  He even changes his name from Avram to Avraham.
My Hebrew name is Avraham and I am named after my great-grandfather Abe Field. He also changed his name; his last name – from Schwanenfeld to Field. (add silly face, like “whew”) He saw the future, too and adapted to the need.
Abe was a lot like the original Abe – except that, he traveled even further, from Poland to Siberia to Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan, then back to Poland, then several different DP camps in Germany, and eventually on to America for a better life.  He never looked back and because of that he was able to build a future for his family and that’s how I’m here today. 
Recently, my Grandmother had been sick in the hospital. While the last few weeks have been stressful on my family, I decided that I would push forward, like Abraham, studying when I could in between trips to visit. I have worked for the last year to learn my parsha and prayers and I did not want to fall short of my goal. Like Abraham, I wanted to pass this test. We all face these kinds of challenges in life; how we navigate them is our own personal test.

For my Bar Mitzvah project, I choose to support an organization called 3-square. In Stamford, one in five students would go hungry if they were not on a school meal plan. 3-square is run by the United Jewish Federation of Greater Stamford, New Canaan, and Darien. Every week, a group of volunteers goes to the food bank and obtains food from the food bank and packs it in a shopping bag children can bring back and forth from school. They choose shelf-stable food like granola bars, canned goods, and cereal. These bags sustain the children through the weekend. Often, this is the only food these children get for the weekend. I am honored to help this organization in any way I can. 

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