Wednesday, May 11, 2011

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Lucas Ehrlich on Emor

Shabbat Shalom!

Those of you who know me know how much I love hockey. I was about four or five and my Dad took my family to a New York Ranger hockey game. I saw them play and I was amazed at how much fun it looked. A few weeks after that I started to play and I haven’t stopped since.

In the first league I played in, the teams had to choose a different goalie each game. One day I had my chance and I really liked it.

Being a hockey nut, imagine how great I felt when I found out that the one thing in the entire Torah that looks most like a hockey stick is found in MY PORTION!!!

That’s right. My portion has complete description of the Jewish festival cycle, and of course, Sukkot is described at the end, in great detail. For those who may not know, Sukkot is a harvest festival in the fall. The symbols of the festival include different things that grow, including the combination of branches and lemon-like thing called the Lulav and Etrog. My portion contains
the only description of the Lulav and Etrog found in the Torah.

When you look at the Lulav and Etrog (show picture) you can almost imagine a hockey stick and a puck. And they share a lot in common.

There are two popular ways that people explain their symbolism. One is that they represent different types of people. The Etrog has both taste and smell, just as there are people who both do good deeds and have wisdom. The date palm has taste but no smell, representing people who do good deeds but aren’t wise. The myrtle branch has smell but no taste, just some people are wise but don’t do good deeds. The willow branch has neither taste nor smell, just like people who aren’t wise and don’t do good deeds.

In order to have a complete team, or a whole community, you need to have all types of people working together.

On my team, we’ve got all types. There’s the big kid who always protects the rest of us. There’s the scorer, the defender, the passer and I’m the goalie. Each of us plays our part. We all need to stick together to have a successful team.

Another commentary compares the different parts of the lulav and etrog to parts of the body. The palm branch is the spine, the Etrog the heart, the myrtle leaves look like eyes and the willow leaf looks like a mouth.

All the limbs and organs, all parts of the body, work in unison when we are praying. The same is true as a goalie when someone shoots the puck. There is no time to think. My whole body has to respond instinctively – without thinking. I don’t have time to say to myself, “Stick out your glove.” Being a good goalie means being able to act quickly and decisively without having to think.

The same is true with being a bar mitzvah. I’ve learned the prayers so well that they just pop into my head. They are now part of who I am.

The same is also true with being a good person. Not long ago in school, a new kid came into the classroom, someone I knew but no one else in the class knew. I sat with him, even though other kids tended to move in the other direction. It was clear to me that it was the right thing to do with someone who was new, to sit with him as a way of reassuring my friends that this new kid was OK and nice -- and now he has made friends as if he was always there.

So you can see that the Lulav and Etrog have lots in common with a stick and puck. And just in case you wondered, while hockey fights aren’t found in the bible, they did used to throw etrogs at politicians the people didn’t like.

I’m glad that these days we only throw candy.

For my mitzvah project, I’ll be donating hockey equipment and donations to the Ice Hockey in Harlem program, to help underprivileged kids enjoy my favorite sport.

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