Sunday, April 22, 2012
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Joshua Dampf on Shmini
Those of you who know me know that I’m not exactly what you would call “shy.” Some people have said that I’m even a bit over friendly at times. I always have my own opinion as my mom will tell you. And generally, I’m not afraid to stand out from the crowd.
In my portion of Shmini, Aaron’s two sons, Nadav and Avihu, die suddenly and tragically even though they’re very young. We don’t really know why they died. Rashi, a commentator from the Middle Ages, suggests that they died because they entered the sanctuary drunk. Rabbi Eleazar in the Talmud says they were disrespectful to their elders. People tend to blame the victim. That’s never right, although Nadav and Avihu may have taken unwise risks.
We don’t know exactly what happened. The Torah just says they brought a strange fire. It’s unfair that they were killed just for daring to be different. As one who often dares to be different, I can feel for them.
I’ve been in four plays and love to act. All of the characters I’ve played have been individualists. Well almost all. You see, in a production of “Alice and Wonderland”, I played Tweedle Dum. The problem is that Tweedle Dum can’t do anything without Tweedle Dee. In the play, I was never on the stage without Tweedle Dee. Fortunately, the guy who played Tweedle Dee was a good friend. In real life we looked nothing alike but in costume, we looked equally ridiculous.
My other roles have been more solo. In “The Little Red Hen” I played the hen, and stood out in many ways, not the least of which being that…I was red…and little…and a hen. Much later I played Peter in “Peter Pan” and a munchkin in the Wizard of Oz – and not just any munchkin – I represented the Lollypop Guild.
I’m interested in lots more than just drama and in every case, its important to be proud to be different. As a Boy Scout, the idea is not so much to stand out but to stand up, for our country and its ideals. As someone who loves animals, I can tell you that it’s important to love each one individually - that includes my turtle and 16 fish, including two beta fish, two goldfish, four cyclids, two leaf fish, one green terror, one cardinal fish, a scooter blenny, a chocolate starfish, a Hawaiian cleaner shrimp, and a yellow tailed blue damsel. Each fish is special. To look in my five aquariums is to see a vast variety of colors, shapes and sizes. And except for the shrimp, the scooter blenny and, oh yes, two snails, all the fish have fins and scales, which means that, according to my portion, they are kosher! Not that I’m about to eat them. And now, I have a brand new puppy…Tova…who is pure goodness just like her name!
I also love kids. My mitzvah project was participating in the mitzvah program at the Friendship Circle, where I have the chance to spend time with kids who face different challenges – and, just by my example, I’ll be teaching them, most of all, never to be afraid to stand out.
I only wish Nadav and Avihu could have been given a second chance to do just that.