Sunday, May 31, 2020

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Eli Schwartz on Shavuot

Shabbat Shalom and happy Shavuot!

This morning, we are all part of history – the first-ever Zoom Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth El!   Someday I’ll be able to say that my bar mitzvah was unique, different from most. 

Some of my friends decided to wait until the fall when this all blows over – hopefully…. But I didn’t want to change the date, because you can never tell what the future may bring.  But also because I kind of like trying something new – and today really is special.   And one thing you know, if you know me, is that I’m used to adapting to all different situations.

There are some advantages and disadvantages.  The disadvantage is that most of us aren’t in the same room.  But the advantage is that up to 300 participants were expected to be “be here” in this virtual room, many who might not have been otherwise.  That’s really important to me because all of you have made such a difference in my life and helped me at times when I really needed it.

Which gets us back to the importance of adaptation.  As many of you know, I had a few very rough years when I was younger.  I spent many months in Yale New Haven Hospital but was able to finally beat A.L.L., a form of Leukemia.

For me, a key was to be able to adapt to the big changes in my life, to go with the flow.  Being in the hospital for months, hooked up to medical devices, I had to adapt to not being free to move around.  I had to learn how to be especially careful about everything.  And I was worried.  It was not easy to get through the pain. I can still remember now how it all felt. I couldn’t walk straight at times.  But over time, I was able to adapt and take on that pain.  And eventually I overcame it.

People now have the fear of getting sick.  It’s rough.  The three things that can get you through it would be family, friends and doctors. Even though I was young, my whole class wrote letters for me saying “feel better.” Those people being there make you happy – and happiness gets you through everything.

In a science unit in school, I learned how animals have to adapt. I did the same thing.  Animals adapt to predators and a changing environment, just like dogs have had to adapt to people being home all day!

I’ve been practicing Karate  for years.  Karate has also taught me all about how to adapt.  For instance, when you are in a headlock, there are many ways to get out of it. You’ve got to adjust according to the situation. 

The festival of Shavuot celebrates giving of the Torah.  Before the Torah was given, there were no rules.  So there’s a midrash – a legend - that when the people were camped beneath Mount Sinai, they didn’t know what they could eat.  The Kosher laws hadn’t been given yet.  So they adapted and ate the safest things possible – and that in Jewish tradition means dairy foods, which are a lot less complicated than meat. So that’s why on Shavuot the custom is to eat dairy. 

And that’s why we’re going to have a lot of pizza and ice cream at the big kiddush after services. (Too bad none of you will be there so I’ll have to eat it all)

I was just kidding, we don’t have a kiddush planned.

We adapt for now, but someday soon, we’ll find a way for all of us to get together and celebrate!

For my mitzvah project  – I always liked playing games at the hospital. I found a gaming specialist at Yale New Haven, so I set up a fundraiser to give money to the hospital so they could buy the equipment for the patients to make them happy.

Because as I learned, happiness gets you through everything!

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