Tuesday, November 25, 2014

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Joshua Pickel on Toldot

Shabbat Shalom!

Many of you know that I’ve done a lot of acting.  For instance, I was in a couple of episodes of “Law and Order,” also in “Royal Pains,” and did a voice over for a commercial for Heinz ketchup that was shown during the Little League World Series.

I liked doing it – A LOT – but acting is not as glamorous as it’s cracked up to be.  It can be really EXHAUSTING work, especially for my mom who has to SCHLEP me to all of my auditions and calls to the set.

I was happy to hear that my portion contains one of the greatest acting roles in the entire Torah.  Jacob plays none other than his brother Esau in a high stakes game to convince his father, Isaac, that he is the one who should get the blessing and NOT his brother. 

It’s also funny that even from when I was really young, I always wanted to become bar mitzvah on a week when we read about Jacob. 

Jacob is arguably the GREATEST actor in Jewish history.  His name even means DECEIVER.  And, later on, he gains a new stage name as he enters the stage of history, “Israel.”  What becomes clear about Jacob is, that through his acting, his true self emerges.  Even as he pretends to be his brother, he learns a lot about himself and the power he has to change things. 

So in the commercial when I said, “Heinz, proud sponsor of Little League,” I helped people to draw a connection between America’s national pastime and a company that makes ketchup. 

Does that make the world a better place?  Probably not, BUT, it helps me to know that the words I speak CAN change things.  Other actors can make people laugh and cry.  For now, I know I can make them like ketchup. 

Becoming a bar mitzvah is very similar.  I recite words on a stage that make people cry – ESPECIALLY my parents.  I have to memorize lines and work on how to present them.  And when all is said and done, I CAN make a difference.

In this case, though, I’m not pretending to be someone else.  I’m showing people who I REALLY am.  I’m doing something I love and showing all of you the role I want to play in the Jewish community.  This is one of the most important roles I’ll ever play.  

So here’s another role that I once played, for a theater at camp:  Peter Pan.   I think it’s safe to say that Peter Pan never became a bar mitzvah.  He NEVER wanted to grow up.  AND, I must confess that there’s a little Peter Pan in me.  But by taking on this new role as a bar mitzvah, I recognize that I HAVE to grow up.  Still, I hope I can combine the two roles in some way.  I never want to lose the playfulness of Peter……but at the same time, I need to gain the sense of responsibility of a Jewish adult.

Which brings me to my mitzvah project.  Some of you already know that I’ve been selling chocolate and raising money for UNICEF in order to pay for the cost of one of car to carry supplies for children in need.  I need to sell 1,500 candy bars to reach the $3,000 goal.  I’m well on my way – BUT… if you have a sweet tooth and want to buy some, email me after Shabbat!

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