Wednesday, September 11, 2019

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Michael Luther on Ki Tetze

Shabbat Shalom!  From a young age, I have always been intrigued by Disney.  But over the last couple of years,  I have become obsessed! 

I love everything Disney,  but especially the theme parks. 

While some 13-year olds  spend their time surfing YouTube for videos of cats or gaming, I follow the latest video updates from Disney World vloggers… yes, they really do exist… and there’s more than three of them! 

If you want to know about the latest in happenings at Disney World, I’m your man! I’m sure some of you know that Star Wars Land opened just two weeks ago, including a ride where you can pilot  the Millennium Falcon. But, did you know ‖ that on August 23rd, Disney filed for a land permit to install pre-fabricated stairs at the Droid Depot in Star Wars Land? ...I did. 

I’ve even researched the price of living at Walt Disney World for a year…  it’s a whopping $287,000 per person… since I know you all wanted to know. 

So, it was natural for me when I began to look at my Torah portion of Ki Tetze, to see everything through the Disney lens. (Put on glasses).  When viewed this way, it almost seems like the entire portion came from Space Mountain instead of Mount Sinai.   

The portion has 72 mitzvahs, or laws – that’s about 12% percent of the 613 commandments in the Torah. Most of Ki Tetze’s laws have to do with relationships between humans, but Disney has done an excellent job of teaching these same rules through their iconic movie characters and parks. 

Here are some examples - 

The first mitzvah found in the portion talks about how important it is not to treat people as slaves. A woman captured in war cannot be mistreated.  In verse 21:14, it says clearly, “You must not enslave her.”

So many Disney characters faced that kind of treatment – like Rapunzel, or Jasmine or even Dumbo or Pinocchio.

Or, take the rebellious child, which we find in verse 18 of that same chapter. The Torah calls it a capital offense to not obey your parents. I know that now that I am a bar mitzvah, I am responsible  for my actions, and hopefully I won’t get executed  for not making my bed this morning. 

This verse is teaching us ‖ that kids should be responsible and not let family issues turn into a full-scale rebellion. Peter Pan and company learned that lesson well –  almost at the cost of their lives. When the Lost Boys  ran away from home ‖ and got to Neverland, what they wanted most of all was a parent. 

In verse 22, we are instructed to return lost items to their owner. Disney parks have taken that commandment to a whole new level. 

If you lose an item anywhere on the property, Disney Cast Members will search for it and send updates to your phone. 

Disney really takes seriously another commandment found in this portion… the mitzvah to love the stranger. As soon as you set foot in the park, you are greeted warmly by cast members, even though they have probably never seen you before. 

In chapter 22, verse 6, we are instructed to shoo away a mother bird before taking her eggs. The idea is to show compassion for animals – which is pretty much a part of every Disney movie…  except for maybe Bambi’s mom and Mufasa. 

In verse 4, it says that if you see an animal fallen in the road,  help it up… like Pumba and Timon helped to raise Simba, or the mouse in Dumbo.

In the next verse, women are instructed not to wear man’s apparel and vice versa.  Fashion has changed these days, but in traditional society,  these things were forbidden –  as we can see with Mulan.   The real message here is that women and men do not need to pretend to be what they are not.  

At the very end of the portion, we read about Israel’s arch enemy, Amalek. We are commanded to defeat them and wipe out their memory. Good defeats evil throughout the Bible and in just about every Disney movie.  I’d like to think that this always happens in real life, but unfortunately, it does not. The Yankees can’t win every game. Life is not always a Disney movie. 

On the other hand, there are no Amalekites around anymore, no ancient Romans, no ancient Egyptians, no Haman, and the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany are gone - but the Jews are still here! 

And so is Disney. Good things never die (and according to some, neither has Walt Disney)! 
For my Mitzvah project,  I’ve chosen to work with  David’s Treasure Chest Toy Closet, which provides free toys to hospitalized children. Toys bring life to children, even if they don’t come to life like they do in Toy Story. I’ll be donating, and I’m encouraging you to donate too.

If you would like to contribute toys ‖ or make a monetary donation, ‖ please see the information ‖ in my Bar Mitzvah Booklet, ‖ or the flyers in the lobby ‖ next to the toy collection box. ‖

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