Tuesday, September 9, 2014
TBE BAr/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Emma-Rose Strom on Ki Tavo
As you probably can guess from my booklet, (that is if you didn’t know already), I sort of have an interest in horses. Let’s put it this way: this past summer, I’ve been at the barn every day from early morning to mid afternoon. Basically, whenever I haven’t been preparing for my bat mitzvah, I’ve been at the stables.
This isn’t just a passing interest. This is something I’ve loved since I was five. I watched a TV show that was centered on girls who loved to ride and care for horses, and decided I would like to try it. So, I went up to my mom and said: “Mom, I’d like to ride a horse.” Soon afterwards, I went to take my first lesson in Ugg boots and jeans (which is, by the way, a really bad idea if you would like to be comfortable on a horse). Ever since then, I have loved spending my time around horses.
I’ve been in competitions since I was seven and this past summer rode in nearly a half dozen, with my favorite pony, Seabiscuit.
I have been riding Seabiscuit for almost three years. Over that time, we’ve built up quite a bit of trust. He knows when I’m unhappy with him, and I know when he’s unhappy with me. He also knows where the sugar cubes come from, so he tries his best to earn them. When I’m riding him, he trusts me when I lead him toward a jump and I trust him to follow my directions – most of the time!
Because of my interest in horses, I’ve been exploring how important they are both in Jewish and Chinese culture. It’s an amazing coincidence that horses were mentioned just a week ago in the Torah, not just once, but twice - and that, in the Chinese calendar, this is the Year of the Horse!
In the Torah, it states that a king shouldn’t have too many horses. That’s because horses were seen as a symbol of great power in ancient times. For instance, in the book of Esther, the Jewish hero Mordecai was honored by getting to parade across the city on the king’s horse.
In Chinese culture, horses represent practicality, love, endurance and devotion. In other cultures, it represents grace, beauty, nobility and strength.
Judaism is also sensitive to the horse’s weaknesses. As you may know, horses mostly sleep standing
up. They can lie down, but usually not for long.
The Rabbis in the Talmud even noted that a horse won’t lie down for long, saying that “one who takes a nap is said to sleep like a horse.” And in this morning’s Torah portion, it states that when an animal has fallen in the road, you should help lift it up – why? Because you should not be indifferent – you should care.
I’ve learned that in a barn, at least one horse-if not most of them- is always standing and awake while the others sleep. It’s their natural instinct to warn the others if they are in danger, which is why you hear many times that horses almost always sleep standing up: to protect themselves and their herdmates. So in a funny way, it’s the horses themselves that teach us that lesson from the Torah that we should not be indifferent if an animal is lying on the ground.
Now that I am a Bat Mitzvah, I hope to take some of these lessons that I’ve learned from Seabiscuit and from the Torah, so that I’ll never be indifferent to any animal – or person – who has fallen.
In speaking of helping others, for my Mitzvah project, I’ve been baking and selling homemade cookies and other things to raise money for the Yogi Fund, which cares for injured greyhounds whose racing career is over. My family has been adopting retired greyhounds for many years. In fact, our second rescue, Tater, was the first dog besides Yogi to take part in the fund. The greyhounds’ regular care is often barely covered by the adoption fees, so the greyhounds with special medical needs often need donations to help them get the treatments they require.