Tuesday, March 20, 2012

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Anya Castle on Beshallach

When I began to study my portion, something amazing occurred to me- the story, is all about me!

Today is called Shabbat Shirah, the Sabbath of the song. And the song that this Sabbath is all about is called the song of Miriam. My middle name in both Hebrew and English is, you guessed it, Miriam! And not only that, but we both love to sing and dance, Miriam and I. 

When Miriam led the people in song, she also led the women in dance. I used to take dance class, but soon learned that big feet aren’t that good for it. But I bet that if I had been at the Red Sea with Miriam, I would have danced too. 

 So I began to think about this hidden connection I have with Miriam. As I learned more about her, it became clearer to me that we have more in common than just our names and the fact that we love to sing and dance. 

For one thing, Miriam was a great leader. Now, I don’t consider myself a great leader… yet, but I am president of the Builders Club, the main fundraising arm of my school. For my Mitzvah project, the Builders Club and I are going to collect change in a jar from the students at my school to donate to Pennies for Patients. Even more than a leader, Miriam was a care-giver. She protected Moses when he floated down the Nile, and made sure that he would be brought up properly by the Pharaoh’s daughter, with help from their mother, Yocheved. 

Later, when in the wilderness and they were thirsty, according to legend, a well miraculously appeared and gave water to the people through their journey. The well was called Miriam’s well, because she cared so much for the people and the well dried up when Miriam died. Like Miriam, I also want to devote my life to caring for others. I want to be an oncologist, partly because of what I went through this past year, when I had to be treated for a rare type of skin cancer. Thankfully I am totally okay now. But as I was going through the treatments, I learned that caregiving is more than just providing medical care, it’s about caring for another person. In Jewish tradition, a patient should be seen first and foremost, as a human being. 

 As a leader and a caregiver, it will be hard to live up to the example of my namesake, but as I become a Bat Mitzvah today, I know that I will always look to Miriam as the perfect role model.

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