Wednesday, November 21, 2012

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Olivia Wise on Vayetze

The name of my portion, Vayetze, means “And he went out.” Jacob was starting on long journey – it would be 20 years before he would return home.  So it’s understandable that Jacob was nervous.  He was not sure where he would end up.  But it didn’t stop him from taking that leap of faith, to set out for places unknown.
All these uncertainties are bothering him as he lies down to sleep on the first night of his journey.  And he has a dream.  In that dream, God speaks to him, promising him that he will be protected and safe and able to fulfill all his goals, and then return safely.
For Jacob, the journey began with a dream.
I also have a dream – to play basketball for a division 1 school (and I really hope it’s U Conn!!!!).  In order to make this dream come true, like Jacob, I’ll also have to take lots of leaps, leaps of faith and leaps on the court.  I’ll have to do many things that are very challenging.
So how do you turn a dream into reality?
In order to become a better basketball player, I’ve had to work really hard and make some sacrifices.
o   First, I quit softball to focus on basketball, which meant missing a chance to spend time with a number of my friends.
o   Second, I practice all the time, with my team and on my own. Sometimes I get really frustrated at myself, especially when I don’t play my best. 
o   Third, I really decided to challenge myself this year by playing in boys pick up league.  It is a much faster game, which makes me have to work that much harder to get open.  I also have had to earn their respect, to prove that I can play with them.  I know I’ve done that because they are always passing me the ball and they give me high fives and say “good job,” just like one of the guys. 
o   Fourth, my commitment to playing basketball has meant that I’ve had less time to spend with my friends.
o   Fifth, I’ve also missed out on summer activities, since I work out anywhere from two to three hours every day, all summer long.
As we all know, when following our dreams, there will always be obstacles that we must overcome. A month ago, I sprained my ankle and even though I was not able to play with my foot in a boot, I still managed to practice:
o   I still could dribble in place and work on other aspects of the game
o   I still went to practices, to learn the plays
o   And my injury had one other benefit: I could focus more on my bat mitzvah!
So like Jacob’s, my dream is very much alive.  And he dreamed his dream at a place that he called Beth El, the house of God.  Today, as I become a bat mitzvah at this Beth El, I know how important dreams can be, not just your own, but those of others too.
That’s why I’ve chosen as a Mitzvah project to work with kids who have dreams similar to my own. They love to play basketball.  Only these kids have various kinds of disabilities.  Some play while in a wheelchair.
These kids have taught me a lot.  They are always enthusiastic about everything appreciate even the smallest things, like a high five from me or when I say “good job.”

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