Saturday, December 2, 2023

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Hannah Zelazny on Vayishlach. Also, Zoom Recording and Selected Screen Shots


Shabbat shalom!

Thank you all for coming to my Bat Mitzvah service, which for me, at least, is the second most important event to occur in America this year.  The other, of course, was the Barbie movie.  And as it happens, the two have a lot in common, and also share some important lessons with my Torah portion of Vayishlach.


In my portion, Jacob and his family return to his homeland and he’s fearful that his brother Esau is going to harm them. So he splits the family up to protect them and prepares to meet his brother.


Things work out, but in the process, Jacob (not to be confused with my brother, who is also Jakob) learns some important lessons about growing up.  Those lessons are: 1) that we always have to be prepared to adjust to change; 2) that we need to be able to forgive ourselves and others in order to move on and 3) that we sometimes have to take a leap of faith – to just go for it when you don’t know what’s on the other side.


In the movie, Barbie has to do all three.  At first, she lives under the assumption that all problems of feminism and equal rights for women have been solved, because if Barbie can be anything – women in the real world can be anything too. When Barbie’s perfect image starts to fall apart, she has to make a key decision to leave Barbieland and enter the real world, which is a real leap of faith.  And in the end, she has to make peace with men – all the Kens – and find a new way to go forward.


For me, as a young girl in this modern world, it is really hard not to aim for “perfection,” when videos and products like Barbie set a very high standard that’s hard to attain.  But we have to be kinder to ourselves.  At times, I can be very demanding of myself – especially as I looked at how wonderfully Jakob did in preparing for his Bar Mitzvah.  But I’ve learned, maybe even a little from Barbie, how important it is to accept something less than perfection and to recognize and celebrate the skills that I have.  As they say, the perfect is the enemy of the good. 

It’s like competitive swimming, which is something I enjoy a lot. It’s also a sport where the biggest opponent is always yourself.  Swimming also demands that we take a leap of faith, more than any other sport, except for maybe skydiving – which I’ll never do, because I’m not fond of heights.  But I’ll always climb up to the diving block, bend my knees, and make that leap into the swimming pool.


There are two interesting connections between my love for swimming and my Bat Mitzvah. One, is that Jacob’s big leap of faith also happened in the water – or near it – as he was crossing a river the night before he met his brother.  He encountered a man, or an angel, or God, or maybe even himself – or Ken, of that matter, and he wrestled with him all night long.   At the end, Jacob was victorious, but came out of it with a limp, along with a new name: Israel – the one who wrestled with God and prevailed.


When I dive into the water, I also feel like I’m coming out a new person – I’m changed in a real way. Like Jacob, I also feel like I’m fighting against myself in the water, to keep going when I’m tired, and doing my best to beat the person next to me, or just the clock, and always racing against myself.


In the end, what helps Jacob to grow up more than anything else is that he could forgive his brother and himself, and that Esau could too.  In my family, saying “I’m sorry” from time to time can really help to heal relationships.


Part of becoming a Bat Mitzvah is being able to make a difference in the world.  At a time when things are not great, especially in Israel right now, it’s important to add some kindness wherever we can.


For my mitzvah project, I’m collecting supplies like warm socks and skin care items for people at homeless shelters.  We made a wish list on Amazon and we’ve received so many items to donate.  My mom keeps saying that the UPS guy must think we have an Amazon addiction with the amount of packages that have been delivered to our house. For those of you who have made donations, thank you for supporting my mitzvah project.

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