Wednesday, October 16, 2013
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Matthew Greenbaum on Lech Lecha
Everyone knows that I am a big Yankees fan, and I can tell you that the Rabbi is an even bigger Red Sox fan. I am kind of relieved that the Yankees didn’t do as well as the Red Sox this year because I was nervous that the Rabbi would give me a hard time.
Let me start by quoting Jackie Robinson, one of the greatest baseball players, who also happened to have lived here in Stamford, "Life is not a spectator sport. If you're going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you're wasting your life."
So what does this quote have to do with todays torah portion?
The portion starts with G-d telling Abraham to, “Lech Lecha,” “go forth from your native land to a land that I will show you.”
According to a Midrash, Abraham lived among idol worshipers, and in fact his dad owned an idol shop. Abraham thought it was weird that people were worshiping objects made by human hands. He had a different view and started to ask questions. The more he asked, the more he was convinced that idols couldn't be gods. He wondered: How could it be possible that all the beautiful things in the world could have come from an idol, which was made recently in his father's shop? As a result he was labeled a troublemaker and eventually put in prison for his ideas.
If Abraham was not willing to actively stand up for his belief in one g-d, he would have lived out his life in the city of Ur and his beliefs would have died with him. He would not have become the leader of the Jewish people, and I probably wouldn’t be giving this speech.
The name Lech Lecha, means “go for yourself.” I think this means that unless you are willing to leave your comfort zone and try new things you will not be able to grow and reach your full potential.
For me, I would rather be in the field playing, and risking making a mistake and the possibility of letting my team down, than taking the safer route of sitting on the bench or even worse not playing at all.
One of the reasons why God chose Abraham to be the leader of the Jewish people was because of his ability to resist the peer pressure to start worshiping idols. But his followers were not as strong as him, so Abraham needed to take them away to a place where there wouldn’t be as many bad influences. G-d chose Abraham to be the father of a great nation because of his action on behalf his beliefs.
The question then becomes, why didn't God have him stay and fight for his beliefs and try to get the people to change their ways?
I think this quote from Rashi sums it up.
Oy l’rasha, oy lish’chay’noh,” Woe to the wicked one, and woe to his neighbor.”
In other words, people who live among bad people will also become bad.
God was trying to teach a lesson. When you are faced with a situation where people are unwilling to change, there isn’t anything that a person can do and sometimes it is better to walk away. Abraham was in this situation and he left.
You need to go away from bad influences.
I can relate this in so many ways. For example, if I am surrounded with people that are not trying their hardest, I may be tempted to slack off. Fortunately that NEVER happens to me!
One of the things I like best (besides sports) is to travel. I always want to leave and go somewhere. One of the reasons why I like to travel is because of the many experiences and events that occur. I’ve learned through my trips that every journey to a place far away is also a trip that helps me to learn more about who I am and where I come from.
That’s why I am really looking forward to going on the class trip to Israel, which will be my biggest adventure yet.
Now lets come back to the topic of leaving your comfort zone. Over the summer my family hosted two Druze boys who came to the U.S. with the IDF widows and orphans organization. Druses are non Muslim Arabs that live in and support Israel. They were thirteen years old like me. I really respected the fact that they left the comfort of home to come to a place where they barely spoke the language.
So here is some advice, next time you have the choice between siting in the grandstands and playing in the field, chose to go to the field.
For my Mitzvah project, I will be volunteering at the friendship circle this year. The annual kick off event, Friendship Day, will take place tomorrow morning at Chabad, please join me there. For those of you who don’t know, the friendship circle pair’s teens and children with special needs.