Wednesday, October 24, 2012

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Sam Porto on Noah

Those of you who know me know that I love animals.   I have a cat, Maurry, three fish, Phil, an African blue Zebra, Mike, a Beta, and Abby, a Crowntail Beta…oh yes, and a frog, Hopper, who will literally come up to you, hop and steal the food out of your hands. 

I don’t really have a favorite animal.  I love them all equally.  But there is a special place in my heart for one creature in particular.  That’s right … you guessed it, the Sloth. 

Sloths are misunderstood and unappreciated.  Actually, many people like sloths, including many of my friends. 

How could you not admire a sloth?  They really have the life!  They just sit around all day hanging from trees.  Some may call them lazy, but I call them smart.  They know exactly how high to climb to stay out of the way of predators.  And they’re so cute with those three toes.  Their claws may look dagger sharp, but they are really gentle animals.

OK, so you’re probably wondering, what’s Jewish about sloths?   Well, I did some research.  In the words of one sloth expert, sloths are in “a league of their own.”  They are used to standing out because they evolved in South America a continent that for a long time wasn't connected to any others. They're also very old—their family tree, which also includes anteaters and armadillos, diverged from the rest of the mammals some 75-80 million years ago. They're also pretty strange.

No, Jews aren’t strange, but the Torah does call the Israelites “a People that dwells alone.” Jews have always found a way to stand out from the crowd, to be different.

Sloths are also not particularly aggressive.  They eat leaves and berries and kill almost nothing.  Jews are also historically peace loving. Sloths, like Jews are also very social. And finally, like Jews, sloths have had to overcome prejudice.  Even their name has become synonymous with laziness.  Sloths are not really lazy!

One more interesting thing.  Sloths can hold their grip after they are dead. It’s similar to the fact that when our ancestors pass away, they still hold an influence over us as we remember them. 

In addition to being a sloth expert, I’m a fan the “Big Bang Theory,” and in one episode, Sheldon demonstrated the old “Live long and prosper” hand signal made famous by Mr. Spock in Star Trek.  It turns out that this was derived from the way the ancient priests used to bless the people in Jerusalem.  When I saw this for the first time, of course it reminded of the three toed sloth and how it would bless the other sloths.  If they would talk, they would hold those three fingers proudly and say to the people, “Live long and lazy.”

For my mitzvah project, I raised $400 for the Connecticut Humane Society by swimming 64 laps, a full mile, in the JCC pool.  As we honor our pets today, a special shout out to Maurry, Phil, Mike, Abby, and Hopper. And also I want to take a moment to remember my friend Chris’s dog Lily, who passed away a couple of months ago.

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