Tuesday, December 22, 2015
In my portion of Vayigash, the main characters are Joseph and Judah. These two characters learn about the most important life skill. It is a lesson that I have always known, from a very young age.
I have always felt that it was important to cultivate many talents.
Some people have called me a real Renaissance man.
Well actually just the Rabbi called me this. And then he explained to me what it means – a person who has many interests and skills. It has always been important to me to have talents in diverse areas.
For instance I love to play baseball and I hope to be a baseball player when I grow up.
I also love to play piano. I have been playing piano ever since I saw it in the orchestra room in third grade. I walked up to it and starting pressing random keys and I said, “I like this!” Since then, I’ve gotten pretty good, although I’ve never had piano lessons.
I’m also a builder. Whenever there’s lots of extra cardboard and tape around, I’ll always think of something to make out of it. A couple of months ago, I made a house for my cat. I also made a pinball machine that actually works!
Then there's magic, I have been interested in that for over a year.
(Do a one minute card trick?)
I also love to read.
In my portion, Judah and Joseph are both very talented. Joseph, for instance, is a great interpreter of dreams. He also is a strategic planner, saving everyone from the seven years of famine by storing the surplus grain. Plus, he’s said to have been a real handsome guy, a snappy dresser and great at disguises.
But both Judah and Joseph learn that there is one other skill that they need to develop: that most important skill is compassion for others.
First, Judah pleads for the safety of their younger brother, Benjamin. He is so convincing that Joseph sends away all the Egyptians and reveals himself to his brothers. Until that moment, when both sides have proven that they care, the family could not have been reunified. Once they learned compassion, they could become a civilized family again.
How have I learned the important skill of compassion? Well, being part of a family has helped, including having a brother. But my family doesn’t just include humans. A month or so ago, we got our first dog, Dexter, 70 lb shorthair pointer – red heeler mix. But when Dexter moved in, he found out that he is not alone. Dexter, meet Jet, our domestic shorthaired cat.
Dexter has lived with cats before but this was a new experience for Jet.
When Dexter came in, Jet walked to the door, saw him and walked away.
But they found a way to live together….kind of. They’re not the best of friends, but they live and let live, sniffing each other from time to time and not getting in each other’s way. Except…. Dexter has taken a liking to Jet’s food.
We solved that problem by installing a cat latch, so Jet can come into the room and Dexter stays out. Robert Frost wrote that good fences make good neighbors. That cat latch has allowed my cat and my dog to be the best of neighbors.
If I can help cats and dogs to get along, maybe there’s hope for people. So here’s my recommendation for all those who want to end conflicts between people. 1) Learn the skill of compassion. And 2) get a cat latch!
Another way to be a true Renaissance Person is to have a mitzvah project.
For mine, I’m donating to Derek Jeter’s Turn Two Foundation, which turns kids away from the use of drugs and helps them “turn to” a healthy lifestyle.