Friday, November 17, 2017

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Emily Goodman on Toldot

Shabbat Shalom!
            When I started to learn about my Torah portion of Toldot, I realized that it has a lot of similarities to my favorite all-time Broadway show, “Hamilton.”
            I mean, if I were to tell you that this is a story about two men who are bitter rivals and one becomes insanely jealous of the other and wants to kill him, you can answer either “Toldot” or “Hamilton” and you would be right!
            In Toldot, Jacob fools his father Isaac into giving him the special blessing that was meant for his brother Esau, so that Jacob would become the leader.  When Esau found out that Jacob got the blessing, he became insanely jealous and wanted to kill Jacob.
            In Hamilton, Aaron Burr is hoping to get Alexander Hamilton’s endorsement, his blessing, in the Presidential election of 1800, when he was running against Thomas Jefferson.  When Alexander endorsed Jefferson, Burr also got insanely jealous and challenged him to a duel.  Unlike Esau, Burr succeeded and killed Alexander.
            Another similarity between the two is the idea that you have to let go of your jealousy.  It happened for Esau, although it took many years.  Eventually he came to accept and even love his brother and he gave up his desire to be the leader. 
            In Hamilton, the two competitive siblings are Angelica and Eliza, the Schuyler sisters (and Peggy!).  At a ball, Angelica meets Alexander and really likes him, but she knows that her sister does as well.  So rather than be jealous or compete with her, she gives Alexander up to Eliza.
            In Hamilton, Aaron Burr gives Alexander some advice, over and over again:  Talk less, smile more, don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”  Burr was very cautious and afraid to take a stand, while Alexander was always impulsive in his action, knowing somehow that he was running out of time and needed to get a lot of things done.
            With Jacob and Esau, it’s a little different.  Neither of them is cautious – both are impulsive at some point in time. Esau is the sibling who let his impulses get the best of him, when he trades his birthright for a bowl of soup and can never the leader after that.  And Alexander makes some bad decisions impulsively that ruin his chances to become President.
            On the other hand, Alexander and Jacob both see the need to make the most out of life and that’s why they deserve the recognition that they received.  When you think about it, the Jewish people are called Israel, which was Jacob’s name.  We’re not called “Esau.”  And the guy whose picture is on the ten-dollar bill is not Aaron Burr.
            There are lots of other similarities that we could explore, like how both Jacob and Alexander were wanderers who never really could settle down.
            In the end, what Alexander and Jacob shared the most was a desire to make the world a better place and because of that, they became the founding fathers of two nations that we all take pride in – the Jewish people and the United States.

            And on this week of Thanksgiving, and since my portion is all about food, for my Mitzvah Project, I am collecting food for families in need on behalf of Neighbor to Neighbor.

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