Sunday, April 18, 2021

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Liam Raz on Tazria-Metzora

Shabbat Shalom!

This week’s Torah reading is a double portion:   Tazria / Metzorah. 

Like our double portion, I know I am also speaking today to a “double audience”   .

I am talking both to people in this room and those of you who are watching from home.

So first, thank you all for coming.  

I am proud to be the first Bar Mitzvah here at Temple Beth El following our reopening.  

The Torah portion talks about Contagious diseases and Quarantine !!!

  Sounds familiar???   

It talks about a planned approach to move out of quarantine back to regular life.  

It also talks about our obligations to individuals, community, and our tradition, as we deal with mysterious diseases!  

It is therefore appropriate that even though COVID is not yet behind us, we’ve found a way to feel comfortable coming back.  

We now have passed the one year anniversary of this pandemic,   and here we are,   together, in this sanctuary   as a sign that we are returning to everyday life,  slowly but safely.

This is the first weekend back, so we are trying a lot of things out.   

Combining Zoom with in-person,  and trying to make sure everyone feels a part of things.   

On this special occasion, I want to discuss the lessons Covid has taught us, one year in. 

First:  We’ve learned that you should never put off a celebration. 

Our Jewish tradition tells us that the world was created in seven days.  

And yet,   the Jewish nation was not yet created during this very crucial week. 

It goes to show that a HUMAN ACT is needed to become Jewish,   AND that we need to put in an intentional effort to continue our tradition. 

This week’s portion begins with the famous instruction that “on the eighth day, a male newborn would be circumcised.” 


This specific act involves HUMAN EFFORT to continue the tradition of the Jewish people. 

As some you may recall from personal experience, It is not very comfortable for a baby, or his parents, to undergo circumcision on the eighth day of life.  

Some may also think that it may not be very convenient to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah during a global pandemic.   

But, this is EXACTLY the point!  .  We do not delay a celebration! 



THIS IS OUR TRADITION:   There is a time and place for everything.   and YES...  it DOES involve HUMAN EFFORT!  

Today is the Shabbat that was assigned to me at birth to celebrate my bar mitzvah . 

So pandemic or not  - our tradition continues  even if it is inconvenient, and not exactly as was planned 13 years ago. 

THIS is definitely a time to celebrate!!!  

Not only because of my Bar Mitzvah, but this so happens to be the weekend of Yom Ha’atzmaut,    The birthday of Israel.    A time when our nation moved from a disaster to establishing a new norm. 

Some of you know that my English name “LI-AM” means “my nation” in Hebrew.  

What better time than, for someone with lots of Israeli relatives, to celebrate becoming a Bar Mitzvah! 

SHALOM to everyone watching from Israel right now!! 

My Hebrew names are: Shevach and Aryeh, in memory of my paternal great grandfathers. 

As some of you may know, last week was also Yom HaShoah,   Holocaust Memorial Day.   

My great grandparents were Holocaust and pogrom survivors, who lost their families but rebuilt their lives again in Israel.   

My family member David Tessler, who never got to stand for his own Bar Mitzvah, was only six years old, my little sister’s age,   when he was murdered in Auschwitz. 

And yet, our nation recovered from the holocaust, and moved on to build a prosperous country. 

Celebrating My Bar Mitzvah on the same day that the state of Israel was declared is a reminder to all of us that even after bad times - recovery, and establishing a new norm, is possible. 

One of the important lessons we learned from Covid is to adapt to changed circumstances. 

Like many, It has been a rough year for me:

- My dear grandfather, Yitzhac Raz, of blessed memory, passed away at the start of the pandemic.

- My previous school closed down...   Permanently...   Not just for the pandemic!. 

- Like many here, I’ve also had my shares of quarantines, and it is not easy for a kid who loves playing soccer, and loves to play outside with friends, to go virtual. 

- Most of you may have noticed by now  - zoom is not really so much fun :-)  

But the point is  Things are getting better!!  I’ve learned that we should try not to give up on the things that keep us going from day to day...  the routine things...   the little things that keep us human. 

Things like: cooking, exercise,   and being nice to one another.  These are all things that I’ve kept doing

I love to cook and do so often.  I love soccer,   and luckily I’ve been able to practice and play through much of the pandemic.

I’ve made new friends and had new experiences this year , and I made the most out of these times!!

Like this week's parsha,   this year also taught me that human kindness, and care for each other can lessen the burden of a disease.  

Some of you may have noticed that this week’s parsha talks A LOT about Leprosy.  BUT...  it is also about getting along with one another

The Hebrew word, Metzorah, which means having Leprosy, also, according to the rabbis, is an abbreviation for Motzi-shem-ra, which means slander.    Leprosy is seen as a spiritual disease.  

When you are living in close quarters, IT IS JUST as important to watch what we say as to socially distance to avoid catching a disease.

Either way  you can cause lots of harm if you are not careful.   

Finally,   COVID has taught us how to deal with illness.  

As friends and people in the community caught COVID-19, I learned about acts of kindness that could be as simple as bringing over some chicken soup, and other food and treats, to help people through their challenges. 

When people are THAT sick, they feel lonely and helpless.  It’s important not to abandon people at a time like this. 

Covid has challenged people in lots of ways.    Everything from cancelled trips to shortages of toilet paper. 

Speaking of toiletries,   those shortages inspired my mitzvah project, which has been to collect toiletries and money for Inspirica,   an organization that provides shelter and helps people to free themselves from the cycle of homelessness.  

Please look at the brochure that I’ve prepared to learn more about my project and how you can help. As I become a Bar Mitzvah on this weekend, there’s so much to celebrate! 

PLUS... we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel for Covid. This light opens the way to a bright, more promising future!

But while we should never put off a chance to celebrate, we know that the need is still great,   and the Torah teaches us never to stop reaching out to others so we can face challenges as a community,   strong and determined to move on!

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