Wednesday, October 24, 2012

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Ryan Murphy on Lech Lecha

Shabbat Shalom.  My Bar Mitzvah torah portion is Lech Lecha. The readings which I just recited are found in Chapter 16 of Genesis.  Though we would  like to think of Abraham and Sarah, the first Jews, as being perfect in every way, this portion teaches us that is most certainly not the case. They were humans just like you and me, capable of doing good and bad and making the right choices.

In Chapter 16, Sarah, heartbroken by her inability to have a child, offers Abraham her maidservant, Hagar, as a concubine by which he would have an heir. Lo and Behold, Hagar is impregnated, and Sarah now has a huge problem on her hands. No, not finding out who the baby daddy is, but rather the fact that her former maidservant is now her equal. Overcome with jealousy and spite, Sarah begins a campaign of  abuse towards Hagar. Tormenting her endlessly, Sarah pushes Hagar over the edge and eventually she is forced to run away.

In the desert, an angel confronts Hagar and tells her that she must return to Sarah because her son is destined  for greatness. The Rabbis pose the question: Why would an angel of god tell Hagar that she must not only stop running away from Sarah, but return to her for what they acknowledge will be even more brutal treatment?

This just may be one of the first cases of bullying in recorded history. Judaism teaches us that bullying is a cancer that must be crushed, lest it continue and grow more intense. In the next parsha, Vayera, Sarah takes her hatred of Hagar to the next level by expelling her and her son, Ishmael, into the wilderness. If bullying is not stopped at the source, the seed, a truly evil tree will grow in the ground instead of the Tree of Life.

These same values hold fast in today's society as well. Throughout my life, I have tried to step up to the plate and make sure that bullying has been batted far out of the park. In first grade, I stood up and was the sole defender of a student who was being picked on. The values impressed upon me by my parents are nothing unique to my family. The best gift a person can give is friendship to another.  Whether it's between adults or children, there is bullying all across the world, It's our job as good people to ensure that we do not find ourselves acting like Sarah and insulting, teasing, humiliating, tormenting, or torturing others no matter who they are or what they look like or believe in, because we all seek the same things in life. Whether its hitting a home run or running a touchdown, or just doing well in school, we all have the same goals in life and should not make it our business 
to impede anyone else's attempts at achieving those goals.

So tonight, when the  party starts, I hope you will talk to strangers, make some new friends, and even try your hand on the dance floor. Just have a great time!

My Mitzvah Project, "Books and Baseball," has had a profound effect on me, and I hope, an even more profound effect on the Islanders of Anguilla. I, as many of you may know, have been vacationing to the Island of Anguilla in the Caribbean since I was an infant, and I have loved the time I spent there. When I found out about the wonderful opportunity to give back, I was enthralled. The over 400 books that I donated to an elementary school library there will serve as educational tools, teaching the students not only to read, but educating them about the greatest gift a man can give. The second aspect of my project actually allowed the children to make friendship and come closer as a community. I donated five bats, nine gloves, and dozens of baseballs to a little league on the Island. In playing these games, the children have the chance to make meaningful and lasting friendships. 

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