Friday, April 20, 2018

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Evan Roth on Tazria Metzora

Shabbat Shalom!

    Thank you all for coming as I become a bar mitzvah today.  
    As you may have guessed,| I am the one who got stuck with the portions about leprosy.
    Actually, Tazria and Metzora are very important portions because illness and healing are very essential topics, both in biblical times and today.  My parshiot teach us some important lessons about how to care for those who are the most vulnerable because they are not well. For instance, it’s important to try to keep people from feeling isolated. It was the Cohen’s role not only to treat the illness, but to reconnect the person back into society.  Healing, in the Torah, is about more than finding a cure. It’s also about extending a helping hand and giving people a sense of love and dignity.
    In a way, it’s sort of fitting that this is my portion, because as you may or may not know, my cousin Brad, who is my age, was diagnosed with cancer over a year ago.
He has been through tough chemotherapy and radiation making it a difficult year.  So today, I’m sharing my bar mitzvah with him.
    Also, my aunt Ali was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease when she was a teenager.  In both my aunt and cousin’s honor, I am dedicating my Mitzvah Project to them.
    For my Mitzvah Project, I raised over $6,000 to support Pet Partners, which trains therapy dog  for people who are suffering from illness or otherwise in need. The money  will help Pet Partners train 63 therapy dogs teams. Each dog visits a number of people, at nursing homes, hospitals and at homes.
    When hospitalized kids see therapy dogs, it brings them joy and excitement. When therapy dogs visit my cousin, it takes his mind off of how he’s feeling. I'm a dog-lover, and truly understand the joy, excitement, and love that dogs bring. I baked homemade dog treats for some of the therapy dogs at Stamford Hospital.
    I've been baking since I was 2 years old and have loved it from the beginning. I have a huge passion for baking and dogs, so I think it's the perfect Mitzvah Project, especially for my Torah portions.
    One thing that Judaism emphasizes is that illness should not be seen as a punishment.  In ancient times, people couldn’t understand why someone would randomly get sick so they sometimes saw it as a punishment from God.  In truth, sometimes illness has to do with our actions, like when we go out into the freezing cold without a coat.  But for the most part, it may have something to do with genetics, but it’s basically random - and it’s not a punishment.
    In Metzora even houses get sick, which the rabbis claimed was a sign that there is no peace in the home – Lo shalom bayit - something that’s never a problem between me and my sister!
    So I hope you can see that even though my portions can be a little depressing, their message is very meaningful - and powerful. Everyone is human and should be treated with dignity. As I become a bar mitzvah today, I hope that I can help make the world a more loving and respectful place

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