Wednesday, May 22, 2019

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Yael Everett on Emor

Shabbat Shalom!

A couple of years ago, a speaker came to Bi Cultural who described an organization called “Stars of Hope,” and when my mom told me about it I knew right away that this could be my Bat Mitzvah project, and something that I could continue to support for years to come.

The idea is so simple – to send paint and decorate supportive wooden stars and send them to people dealing with crises.  It is described on their website as being “a unique disaster response and community arts program empowering people to transform communities impacted by natural and human-caused disasters by creating and displaying colorful art and messages of hope and healing.”

I’m a big fan of empathy.  I guess it’s not surprising that when I grow up I want to be a psychologist.  I hope I’ll be able to help people deal with crises in their lives.  So this project really excited me.  It reminded me of what sports stars often do – people like Curtis Granderson, who is always visiting hospitals and schools, and Roberto Clemente, a real hero of mine, who died in a plane crash trying to help people in while on route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was just 38 years old.

I’ve had lots of practice in showing empathy, through my love for my pets.

It all started with Lucky, a cat who was rescued from the streets of New York.  Lucky was not just lucky to be rescued, he was lucky enough to live to the fine old age of 21. Then came our dog Carmel, who is a ten-year-old Labrador. But after Lucky died, I wanted more, so I started begging for kitten. One day when my mom and my dad went out to buy dog food, there was a sign in the store.  That’s how we got our two kittens, Ian and Chad, who are now one year old.  And now, since it’s been a WHOLE YEAR since we got a new pet, I’m trying to convince my parents that it is time for labradoodles.

Yes, I know pet ownership can be complicated.  At one time, we were giving the cats a total of 18 different medications PER DAY. 

Having so many pets has been a real blessing for me – it’s taught me a lot about responsibility, time management and of course – empathy.

In my portion of Emor, a curious passage demonstrates the need to have compassion for animals.

“And whether it be cow or sheep, ye shall not sacrifice it and its young both in one day.”

Why is this the case?  Rambam states in his commentary that this teaches us to empathize with the mother animal, who may not be as smart as a human being, but still has the same emotional connection to its children.

Modern science has shown that animals definitely have feelings.  And when we care for animals, it also teaches us to be more caring of other people.

In my case, that training has gone a long way.

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