Friday, December 12, 2014
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Jessica Olin on Vayeshev
Aside from this being my bat mitzvah and Shabbat, today is a very special day. It’s December 13, so that makes it 12/13/14. And for those who are wondering, that magic moment of 12:34, on 12/13/14 will occur while we are at the Kiddush. Ever since the year 2003, we’ve had one of these dates every year. But that will now end. This is the last time there will be consecutive numbers for month, date and year, for 89 years, until January 2, 2103, or 1/2/3.
Aside from this thing with the dates, there are a lot of other lasts that we are celebrating today. This is the last bar or bat mitzvah on Shabbat morning at Temple Beth El in 2014. As you may know, I am also the last of my siblings to become bat mitzvah. And I am the last student in my Hebrew School class to become bat mitzvah, too.
Some might think that this is a bad thing. But there is a Hebrew expression that says just the opposite: Acharon, acharon haviv.” It’s based on a Talmudic commentary but its meaning is basically, “last but not least.”
It turns out that in the Bible, virtually every great hero is the youngest! We see it especially in Genesis. Isaac and Jacob were both the youngest and they turned out to be more important than their siblings. Elsewhere, Moses is the youngest of his siblings, and so is King David. It gets to the point when we are surprised when the Bible hero is NOT the youngest sibling.
In my portion, Joseph is the second youngest – but since he had ten older brothers, we can consider him as good as the youngest – especially since he was Jacob’s favorite.
Being the youngest was not always an advantage for me. For all these years I've been schlepped around to Josh and Ilana’s activities.
Following in the footsteps of two really high achievers has been extremely difficult. It has put added pressure on me to succeed in school, at gymnastics, & in EVERYTHING!
But, there have been many advantages of being the youngest.
I've gotten to learn from their experiences. Navigating school was easier, and I had the inside track on which teachers to watch out for, or how to approach a particular assignment. Josh & Ilana have been VERY helpful with homework, since they’ve taken the same classes.
When Josh & Ilana got their first cell phones, they had to get basic phones. Josh's cell phone still is!!! But last Hanukkah, when I received a ringing box, I was thrilled to open it and find an iPhone! Way back in Josh and Ilana’s day, iPhones weren’t as popular. But now they’ve become crucial to a teenager’s survival!
Also, had I not been schlepped to gymnastics with Ilana from the month I was born, I might never have discovered my passion for it. It started with Mommy & Me when I was 18 months old, and from what I’ve been told, I crawled around in the gym even before that. Gymnastics is (and has always been) such a huge part of my life. I love it so much, even though sometimes that commitment means that I don’t have as much time to be with my friends.
Being last has other advantages. At gymnastics meets, when awards are given out, first place is always announced last - save the best for last! As they say, “Acharon, acharon haviv!”
Some say that the youngest sibling grows up faster. I definitely did, especially having two older siblings, including one who is already in college. Not too many kids my age watch Homeland every week, or “Grey’s Anatomy,” – and even if they do, not too many of them understand all the medical talk that’s going on. I guess that might also be because I have a doctor in the family.
And finally, in addition to the pressure of following my siblings, I have the added pressure of being last in my Hebrew school class.
We’ve been going through this together for the past 8 years – and the past 13 months for bar mitzvahs – and this is the end not just for my family, but for all of us. There’s a little more pressure, but it’s also a great honor to be the last one.
So being the youngest isn’t so bad… even if I complain about it from time to time!
My Mitzvah Project is collecting gift cards and toys for David’s Treasure Tree toy closet in the pediatric unit at Stamford Hospital. After my Bat Mitzvah, I will go to the hospital and help put the items I collect into the closet and help organize the closet.