Friday, March 31, 2017

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Ethan Brudny on Vayikra

Thank you, Noa and mazal tov to you!
And Shabbat Shalom everyone.
I’ve always been interested in math and statistics.  So I was happy to find out that there are lots of ways to look at my portion mathematically. For instance, here are some basic stats about Vayikra:
Vayikra is the 24th of 54 portions in the Torah and the 1st of 10 in every Torah scroll, this portion is written on 215 lines, which ranks it as the 19 largest in the Torah.
It has 111 verses, which ranks 26th, 1673 words, which ranks 20th (1st in Leviticus) and 6,222 letters. 
So, when analyzed statistically, the portion is of average length, but its verses are longer than average for the Torah.
Vayikra also contains 16 commandments of the 613 in the entire Torah; 11 positive and 5 prohibitions.  By my calculations, about 3 percent of all the mitzvot are found in my portion.
Noa talked about how rituals create order out of the messiness of life.  But in the entire universe, there is nothing as orderly as numbers and statistics.  That is one reason why Judaism is filled with numbers.
For instance, candle lighting times on Shabbat or festivals are figured out to the second.  Passover is filled with stats, like the fact that the dough for matzah must be baked before it has risen for 18 minutes.
Judaism has Matzaballs, and sports have Moneyball. 
I was not happy when the Mets traded away Dilson Herrera last summer to the Reds for Jay Bruce.  Bruce is OK, but Herrera statistically is off the charts.
His lifetime OPS is .691.  What is OPS, you are asking? On base percentage plus slugging percentage - of course.
The guy only grounded into 5 double plays ever – and the Mets traded him!
How could they trade him away???
Meanwhile, Jay Bruce, who the Mets got in return for Herrera, only hit 8 home runs after the trade, and his stats decreased.  Numbers don’t lie.
But even a numbers guy like me knows that people are more complicated – and sometimes metrics are not enough.
For instance, if we were to create a cybermetrics system to evaluate rabbis, we might multiply the length of the rabbi’s sermon by the w.p.m. – words per minute - and divide by the number of jokes, and to all that add in the number of people who come to services more than twice a month – and divide all that by the cantor’s metric and add in the number of board members…. And…
Maybe there’s a limit to the ability of numbers to measure people! What’s true about rabbis is also true about B’nei mitzvah.  It’s not the stats that matter but the people behind the numbers.  That’s why the Talmud teaches us that if you save one life you save an entire universe.  Every human life is of infinite value.

For my mitzvah project, I’m doing a food drive, collecting food for our local pantry.  

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