Friday, March 24, 2017

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Comentary: Alison Mandel on Vayakhel-Pekuday


As many of you know, I love to play basketball.  I started liking it in 3rd or 4th grade – even before I could reach the basket.  At some point I just started to pick up a basketball and play with it.

Now I’m one of the key players on one of the legendary teams of the sporting world: the Bi-Cultural Bobcats.
I’ve been a Bobcat since fifth grade.  Now I’m a starter, and I pretty much do it all – scoring down low, rebounding, passing, defending – and I shoot from the outside too.

In fact, a few weeks ago while I was in the rabbi’s office, I became the first student ever to hit three shots in row from all the way in the back near the stairs.

So I love basketball.  And I was happy to find out that my Torah portion of Vayakhel-P’kudei teaches valuable basketball lessons.  Or to put it another way, basketball teaches some valuable lessons that can be applied to my Torah portion!  

And here they are:

1) The portion teaches us about the observance of Shabbat.  Shabbat is a time when we should refrain from the types of work mentioned in my portion, describing the construction of the sanctuary in the wilderness.  But we need a rest from all that. In basketball, that rest is called a timeout – or a player substitution.  

2) In speaking about the Shabbat, the Torah says that we should not light a fire anywhere on that holy day.  Commentators say that the verse doesn’t just mean not to light an actual fire, but also not to let yourself get angry or otherwise “burned up” over anything.   

In basketball, it’s always important to keep your emotions in check.  If I take a shot that I think is going in, but for some reason it just doesn’t, I resist the temptation to get upset – you have to let it go and go right on to the next play.

3) The portion also teaches us that everyone has an important role to play in the construction of the tabernacle.  It’s all about the power of “we” to get things done.  

On the court the same thing is true.  Everyone has a different job to do, and everyone has to give a full effort or there is no way to win.  Also in the portion, everyone contributes to the cause to the best of his or her ability.

4) Today is also Shabbat Ha-Hodesh and the special added reading describes of the night of the Exodus.  That night had to be well planned out – much like a Passover Seder is today – and a basketball game too.  

The team has to practice lots of different plays and have a strategy going into each game.  When the time comes to take action, you can’t hesitate.  The Israelites had only a short time to pack their bags and leave Egypt.   The clock was running down – much like someone who has the ball, they can’t hesitate before putting up a shot at the buzzer. The Bobcats have had two buzzer beaters in the recent past.

My mitzvah project is going to be a charity basketball game at BCDS to raise money for The American Heart Association and The Fairfield County Lymphoma Society, in memory of my two grandfathers.  I know for sure that it will be fun and very successful.

In the end there is one big difference between Judaism and basketball.  While in March Madness you start with many and end up with only one team standing; in Judaism, you start with one person standing up here and you end with many, many others who join in to help.  Today that one who is standing here - is me. But I know that I am part of a much larger team.

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