Monday, April 1, 2019

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Jesse Kalt on Shmini

Shabbat Shalom!

When you look at me, if you don’t know already, probably the last thing you will think of is that I love to play bass guitar.  I love to play it so much that it’s starting to fall apart. 

I’ve been playing for about 4 years.  My dad had an amplifier and two basses in the basement and we would go down all the time – and while he would be playing the song “Iron Man” I’d be pretending to play along with him.  It was doubly special because not only did I love it, but I loved making music with my dad.

So, I’m a big fan of Rock and Heavy Metal – I can’t help it!  But I also know that heavy metal has its place – and that place is not here, at services.

Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu didn’t understand that.

In my portion of Shemini, these two kids played with fire, literally.  They brought their own unusual offerings without telling anyone else. And a horrible accident occurred and they were burned to a crisp.

It’s a very tragic story that has a lot of lessons for teenagers, and especially for creative types like me.

The Torah offers very little detail, which allows the Torah commentators suggest many different ways to understand why this happened.  Those theories range from the fact that they may have been drinking to wearing disrespectful clothing, the “strange fire” being the fire of ambition, and that they wanted to take over for their elders before they were ready.

One of the other explanations for Nadav and Avihu is that they rushed into something and had no way of knowing where it would lead.

It reminds me of the scene from the movie “The Breakfast Club,” when John Bender, played by Judd Nelson, while crawling through an air vent to escape detention, says, “A guy walks into a bar with a two pound salami in one hand and a dog in the other and …” and then he falls through the air vent and falls on the floor, back in the detention hall.  It all happened so quickly and, just like with the Torah, it leaves us hanging and the rebellious teen never gets to the punch line.  

Another commentary states that they did too much too fast and because of that their souls “burned out” – they were spiritually and artistically dead, even though they were physically alive.  They lost their creative impulse.

The question we have to ask is where do you draw the line from being creative and trying new things and being bold, and on the other hand being disrespectful of tradition and those who are your elders.

That line is very hard to draw.  But as you can see, I got dressed up today, and I left my bass at home and I didn’t chant my haftarah to a heavy metal background.

Another way I show my love for music is through my mitzvah project, which is called “Project Music.”  “Project Music” is an organization that teaches lessons to kids who cannot afford music classes at places such “School of Rock.” So far I have raised over $2,000.

In the end, Nadav and Avihu might have met a different fate if they had used their creative talents to help others, with projects like this.

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