Thursday, May 7, 2009

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Alex Weinberg on Kedoshim

Shabbat Shalom!

My double portion of Acharay Mot – Kedoshim contains some of the most important laws found in the entire Torah, but one of them seems a little out of place. In chapter 19, verse 11, it says, “Lo Tignohvu v’lo te-hach-shoo v’lo tir-shak-eru eesh ba-amito." “You shall not steal, you shall not deal deceitfully or falsely with another.” Commentators note that the instruction not to steal is already found in the Ten Commandments, so why repeat it here?

Ibn Ezra suggests that “stealing” here refers to the prior verse. Where we are told to leave the corners of our field for the poor. If we don’t do that, then we are, in effect, stealing from them. The things that grow in those corners are not really ours to keep, even if they are growing on our property.

The 11th century commentator Joseph Kara states that we are commanded to help the poor find enough to eat so that they will be not be driven to steal. Rambam went one step further, saying that the highest level of tzedakkah is to find someone a job, so they won’t need to receive charity any more, much less to have to steal.

Tzedakkah has been a topic that has really interested me lately, since I became part of the community’s Teen Tzedakkah Foundation Council program at the JCC. In Teen Tzedakkah Foundation Council, the kids research different charities and then decide as a group, which ones to support, using money that we raise through our own donations and matching gifts.
The whole process is a lot of fun, especially when we get to choose.

So I thought I might give all of you here today a little taste of what it’s like with a brand new reality show:

Welcome to today’s edition of “Choose Your Tzedakkah!”

Today we’ll get to decide among the top three candidates. I’ll describe them all and then you get to text your vote to 1-800-Mitzvah! No, just kidding, we won’t be doing any texting.
So here they are, the three finalists:

· The Koby Mandell Foundation
· Friends of Yemin Orde
· Chai Lifeline

Now, I’ll tell you a little about each of them. Keep in mind that I’ll be donating part of my bar mitzvah money to the winning charity! It’s all up to you.

Each of these three causes is very worthy, which is what makes Teen Tzedakkah so challenging as well as fun. It’s like when the UJF or United Way have to make some tough choices about how much money to give to different places. It’s even harder this year, when so many people are out of work or don’t have as much to give.

The Koby Mandell foundation helps families in Israel who are harmed by terrorism. It is named in memory of a child who was killed by terrorists in 2001, when he was just 13 years old. Some of these kids attend Camp Koby, which helps them to receive the special care that they need while also enabling them to have a fun camp experience. The experience doesn’t stop there retreats help grieving families become stronger despite obstacles.

Yemin Orde is a youth village in northern Israel which is home to more than 500 immigrants, disadvantaged and at-risk children and youth from 20 countries around the world. many of them survivors of trauma and displacement. Many of the programs at Yemin Orde are designed to rebuild the self-esteem and self-confidence of the children as many of them are survivors of trauma and displacement. Yemin Orde is particularly known for its work with the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel.

Since 1987, Chai Lifeline’s programs address the emotional, social, and financial needs of seriously ill children, their families, and communities, here in America. One project of theirs is Camp Simcha in Gen Spey New York, which offers children and teens a chance to forget about illness for a while and enjoy all the fun that camp has to offer.

So what will it be? Koby Mandell, Yemin Orde or Chai Lifeline? We can only pick one!
In the bar mitzvah booklet, you’ll find three little pieces of colored paper. You can see that the basket is going around the room. If your choice is Koby, put the Green piece of paper in the basket. If your choice is Yemin Orde, put the Yellow paper in the basket. And if you prefer Chai Lifeline, put the WHITE paper in the basket.

We’ll see which one wins, and that will be the tzedakkah that I will choose!


Koby Mandell Foundation -54 votes
Chai Lifeline -33
Yemin Orde - 27

There are many other charities that we could have chosen, of course. But I hope this gave you a taste of what it’s like. Now that I am a bar mitzvah, I realize that it’s not a matter of choice for me at all whether or not to give tzedakkah. It’s part of my responsibilities as a Jew.

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