Friday, March 22, 2024

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary, Video and Screen Shots: Joshua Friedman on Shabbat Zachor

Shabbat Shalom!

Today is a special Shabbat called Shabbat Zachor.  It means the Sabbath of Remembrance. So what are supposed to remember?  We are supposed to remember what the evil nation of Amalek did to the Jewish people after they escaped many years of slavery in Egypt.  The Jewish people finally escaped Egypt after being slaves to Pharaoh for many years.  They were walking through the desert, hungry, thirsty, hot, and tired, and suddenly, this group of bullies called Amalekites attacked them, especially those people who were in the back and were tired and weak.  Why did they attack them?  We don’t know - maybe it’s out of fear or jealousy or maybe they were just scared of the Jewish people because they were different. After this attack, God says that we should always remember what Amalek did and “blot out Amalek’s name”. It's a way of saying that there are consequences for being mean and attacking others, and sometimes you have to take strong action to make sure it doesn't happen again. However, is violence always the best solution?  Aren’t there other ways to work things out? 


The story of Amalek reminds me of the theme of fighting against really bad leaders who hurt others for their own power.  Evil leaders like Hamas who attacked Israel on October 7, 2023.  Hamas is a terrorist organization and they killed at least 1,200 men, women, children, and infants in one single day.  It was the largest and most brutal massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. I remember hearing this news and couldn’t believe it.  I was just in Israel a few months earlier for the first time with my family and got to meet my cousins who live in Israel. I was so worried Hamas would hurt them because they were attacking so many innocent families in such an evil way.  Like the nation of Amalek, Hamas believes that the Jewish people should be destroyed and will not stop until that happens.  Hearing this makes me feel scared.  How could this be happening today? Could this happen to me?  There are not many Jewish people in my school and I remember wearing my “Stand for Israel” sweatshirt the day after I went to the Washington DC rally feeling very proud.  Another boy pointed it out and made a rude comment and I could respond one of two ways “fight back” or “ask them why they said what they said”.  I chose the latter and it threw him off that I was calm and wanted to have a conversation about it.  They didn’t have a response.  It made me realize that sometimes people have no reason for being mad or not liking someone and instead of figuring it out, they take the easy path by being angry.

There are so many sides to what is happening in Israel and it is very confusing to me that people could hate the Jewish people so much that they celebrated when they hurt or killed innocent people in such violent ways, even children who are my age or younger.   But then I think about the Palestinians who have to live with Hamas as their leader and what’s happening to the Palestinians.  It also isn’t fair since they are caught in the middle and are now dying from starvation and the war.  So in this situation, are we supposed to wipe out the memory of Hamas, similar to wiping out the memory of Amalek, by wiping out all who support Hamas?  Many people think that Israel is trying to do that.  They think that Israel wants to kill an entire population of people and they are being blamed for defending themselves.  Israel is often seen as the “evil one”. 

In my opinion, Israelis should have the right to defend themselves and rescue the people who were taken hostage.  They should have the right to stand up against an organization that is filled with so much evil against the Jewish people but at the same, I just wish the solution wasn’t war.  But Israel is left with not many choices since Hamas won’t agree to the cease-fire.  And so it gets very tricky. 

Nothing good comes from fighting.  It causes so much unnecessary stress.  Disagreements with friends and even with our own family happen all of the time but holding grudges never solves any problems.  If there is someone you have been upset with then talk it out. Just remember that we can’t change the past.  We can only move forward.  Give people the benefit of the doubt, have empathy, and listen so we can spend more time spreading kindness and less time waking up being mad.  Do things you can control like doing good in this world, which could be our way of destroying the idea of Amalek. 

And that brings me to my Mitzvah Project, Lasagna Love, which is all about spreading kindness, one lasagna at a time.  Lasagna Love’s mission is to do small acts of kindness that can make a big difference in someone’s life.  For people who might have lost a loved one, who just came out of the hospital, or are having trouble making ends meet, they can request a lasagna. No questions asked!  So every week or so, we are matched with a family in the area who just needs a delicious home-cooked meal.  This little act of kindness can make a big difference. We have helped families where the mom has MS and just wants a break from cooking for her kids, another person who just got out of the hospital and lives by herself so having a home-cooked meal brought a smile to her face, and another family who just immigrated to the United States and never had lasagna before so they wanted to see what all the hype was about!  Families are so grateful for the support and I love being able to help my neighbors that I didn’t even know before!  By the way, Lasagna Love is a national organization so even if you don’t live in Connecticut,  please check it out for your local community and spread the love of a delicious lasagna for a family in need!

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