Friday, May 23, 2008

Parashat Bekhukotai - Elan's Words

This week, read Bekhukotai which usually comes together with parashat Bahar, which we read last week. In that they USUALLY appear together, I am taking advantage of the split to share with you Elan's words of Torah from last week, his Bar Mitzvah:

Sometimes, I have something I call an “Israel Moment.” It is usually when I see or do something that doesn’t happen in Marietta, Georgia. Once, Mira, Amalya, my Dad and I were walking around downtown and a girl in front of us just walked up to a fig tree and climbed up into it. She started picking figs and eating them. When we walked by, she offered us figs and we happily accepted. Definitely not a Marietta, Georgia moment.

Another Israel moment – I was walking home one day and when I got to Derech Chevron there was a guy on a horse crossing the street, cutting off impatient pedestrians and drivers, who were yelling at the horse and rider. Not a “Roswell Road Moment” - an “Israel Moment.”
One of my favorite Israel moments was seeing Gan HaPa’amon on Yom Ha’Atzma’ut, where people were staking out places for their evening barbecue very early in the afternoon. It was insane. People were trying to get the best spots. Just seeing so many people celebrating in a small place was definitely an Israel moment.

All year, I had great Israel moments and they make me feel much more connected to eretz Yisrael and Medinat Yisrael.

The Tefillin I am wearing today are very special to me. I made them myself. A few years ago, my Dad was sitting with our friend, Noah Greenberg in Tsfat. My Dad saw some paper boxes on his desk and ask Noah what they were. Noah told him that one day, he had a question: How did Moshe make his tefillin, without today’s hydraulic presses and other such modern equipment? Noah came up with the idea to try and make tefillin out of klaf, parchment just like what we use to write a Torah or a mezuzah’s scrolls, that Moshe would have been able to use.

Noah started folding and shaping and eventually found a way to make tefillin. He went to his rabbi and asked if they were kosher tefillin. His rabbi said they were kosher. Noah thought that if kids made their own tefillin, they might use them regularly. So Noah came to camp to test out the idea. Several other campers and I got to test the project out first hand. We started by creasing and cutting the parchment. Then we had to paint it all completely black with paint pens. Once that was done, we started folding the batim, precisely as we were shown, so that they would for the right shape. When they were half folded, we had to take the scrolls, fold them, and tie them up with “gid” or sinew. We put the scrolls inside and then we finished by folding up the bottoms and sewing them shut. After that was done, we lacquered the Shin on the Shel Rosh to give it a shine. When that was done, all that was left to do was to tie the knots on the straps and, then, we had made our own tefillin!

While we were working on our tefillin, we would sometimes become distracted and start talking about other things. Each time, Noah would have us say that “Everything we do today is l’shem Kedushat Tefillin” and we would all refocus. After a day or two, some of the campers would remind the others about our purpose, l’shem kedushat tefillin, without being told by Noah to do it. Even though it meant not going to sports and swimming for a few days, I was amazed and excited to participate in this new project and am very proud to have made this pair of tefillin.

On Chol HaMoed Sukkot, my family came with the Schorsch – Moses family to Neot Qedumim. It was our first visit. Simcha Leibovic took us on a tour of all the different kinds of Sukkot mentioned in the Mishnah. It was amazing to see all the plants and the view, and it gave me an idea of what biblical Israel might have looked like. We saw etrogim the size of watermelons, an Archimedes screw, and other fascinating things. It really gave me an idea of why the Israelites wanted to here so badly and why we kept remembering this place for thousands of years.

These may seem like random things: Israel moments, a tefillin project, Neot Kedumim, and some special people but there is a connection between them and my bar mitzvah. Bar Mitzvah is about my relationship, and my obligations, to Elohei Yisrael, following the mitzvoth that are part of our brit with God. Bar Mitzvah is about our Torah and doing things like learning about tefillin, making tefillin, and now wearing tefillin. Bar Mitzvah is about having a relationship with people, the people of Israel, and it is about having a connection and responsibility to Eretz Yisrael, the land and the State of Israel, which is a lot of what Shemittah is about. Thank you all of coming to join me as I take on these obligations and to celebrate with me as I become Bar Mitzvah.

May we all go from strength to strength and may we all stand together this Shabbat and proclaim:

Be Strong, Be Strong and We Shall be Stengthened.
חזק חזק ונתחזק

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