I have just finished reading a book by Ray Bradbury called Fahrenheit 451. It really made me think about the true meaning of freedom and censorship. In the book, Montag says to his wife, Mildred, “We need not to be left alone. We need to be really bothered once in awhile.” I chose to write an essay on this quote because it really reflects what the whole book is about, being bothered. Ironically, I was bothered by this quote in a good way. I’m now going to share with you some of my thoughts on that quote and it’s significance to the novel.
When Montag tells Mildred that they need to be bothered once in awhile, I think he is trying to plead with her to really be bothered by something and convince her that being bothered can also be a good thing. In their society, being bothered and thinking is technically considered a crime because thinking allows diversity and can cause people to feel inferior to others. That is why books are illegal. They cause you to be bothered and have a diverse opinion about something.
In reality, deep down, Mildred is very bothered by the life she has come to live. All day, she sits in front of the television and talks to “the family” which isn’t even real. Her life offers no substance and it bothers her, but she can’t really put it into words. Mildred and Montag both realize that their society has no substance and it bothers them, but they have two different ways of showing it. Montag shows that he is bothered by reading books and trying to find substance in his life. Mildred shows that she is bothered by attempting to commit suicide and denying it the next day.
When Montag tells Mildred that they shouldn’t be left alone and not have to think, she believes him, but doesn’t know how to voice her opinion because she believes that she doesn’t have one or need one. That is really what Fahrenheit 451 is about, being bothered and really stopping to think about something. In a way, that quote summarizes the book in one sentence and shows that people need to be bothered by something once in awhile. What is life if you don’t live with substance?
Our class will be graduating from the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School soon which means that any mitzvah projects we would like to participate in will have to be on our own time. I have done so many mitzvah projects with Morah Eta over the passed three years that I can barely keep track of them all. All the mitzvah projects that Morah Eta cooks up and plans for us are different each time. We have cleaned gravestones, gone to Mt. Herman, volunteered at the Mandarin Food Bank, volunteered at Feeding America, volunteered at Katz 4 Keeps, gone to help plant vegetables at the Bridge, and done so many other mitzvah projects. Over the course of my three years in our middle school, there is one mitzvah project that we have not done which I have always wanted to try.
One mitzvah project I would have loved to participate in is working at the soup kitchen here in Jacksonville. I think it would have been a great mitzvah project to participate in because it would show middle school students how to be kind to people that they have never met before and help feed them. During the summer, I have decided that I will return to Katz 4 Keeps to work there and help out. I have really enjoyed that mitzvah project which is why I will try to keep participating in the project, even when I’m not at this school anymore. I know I may not have as much time because high school brings on a lot of new responsibilities, but I will try to make time because I believe there is always time for a mitzvah.
On Friday, the middle school went on a mitzvah trip to perform a model seder at Mt. Carmel which is a place for senior apartment living. It is meant for low income senior citizens who don’t have enough money for places like River Garden or The Coves. Most of the people at the model seder didn’t speak English so we couldn’t really communicate with them well. Why would it be so important to perform a model seder there if we can’t even really understand them? Well, when I was there, I saw how happy they all were just to see children. There eyes lit up when they saw us come in and I could tell that we made there day. I could tell that they don’t get as much attention as they used to seeing as how Mt. Carmel has been around for a while and the Coves probably isn’t helping their business.
I think it is very important to go back every year because if it is true that they don’t get too much attention, that makes our visit for them that much more important and sweeter. Maybe when the senior citizens see kids, it brings back their old memories of what it was like to be a kid when they were growing up. All in all I think it is just important to spend time with elderly people in general whether you can understand them or not. I feel as though this mitzvah project would have been just as important without a model seder because I think it still would have made the people there happy just to see a friendly face. Even if they can’t understand me and I can’t understand them, it’s the thought that counts and in this case, I think it did. Have a happy Passover!
“What greater gift than the love of a cat.”
– Charles Dickens
Katz 4 Keeps is more than just a place. It’s a state of mind. For those of you who don’t know what Katz 4 Keeps is, Katz 4 Keeps is a place where people can come in to adopt kittens or cats that were strays before they were found on the street and brought there. Almost every Friday, I volunteer there with a few other eighth graders. They need volunteers there to socialize the cats so that later on, they can interact with humans and be adopted. I love playing with all of the kittens and cats there. Katz 4 Keeps helps me observe a very important mitzvah called Tza’ar Ba’alei Hayim.
In the very first chapters of the Torah, animals are created on the fifth day of creation and establish an important connection with humans. Even when Noah is told to build an ark so God can destroy the world, God takes kindness on animals and lets Noah take a few animals from each species on the ark with him so they can repopulate the earth. Throughout the Torah, animals have a special connection with humans. The mitzvah Tza’ar Ba’alei Hayim tells people to not treat animals cruelly. I think that cats on the street without a home are suffering, maybe even starving. That is why I love going to Katz 4 Keeps every week and find it meaningful. It is because I want to see every cat and kitten there find a home and be loved by someone. As you can see in the picture below, my mom and I are holding a kitten. There is a story behind that picture.
My mom drove us to Katz 4 Keeps one day and started socializing the cats. I somehow convinced her to get a kitten. So a few weeks later, on a Sunday, just my mom and I drove back to Katz 4 Keeps and started looking for a kitten to adopt. She said the choice was mine. It took me hours to decide on a kitten, but I finally decided on a cute tuxedo kitten that was very friendly. We took a picture with the kitten before we left to always remember that moment. Now, I have an even deeper connection with Katz 4 Keeps and will keep going there because I love what I do there. That is why Katz 4 Keeps is more than just a place.
In Morah Eta’s class, we just finished reading The Sunflower by Simon Wiesenthal. This book is about a Jewish man named Simon whose story began at a concentration camp. He somehow ended up at a German hospital where he was led by a nurse to a dying Nazi soldier. This soldier told Simon his story and then asked if Simon could forgive him. Simon didn’t forgive the man, but at the end of this book, there were many symposiums that answered the question of whether Simon should have forgiven the Nazi or not. Mrs Teitelbaum assigned us to write our own symposium and share our opinions on the book. Here is mine.
Because of indifference, one dies before one actually dies. – Elie Wiesel
Indifference is one word I would use to describe Simon’s situation. The man who asked him for forgiveness was indifferent to the killings of hundreds of Jews who died at the hands of Nazi soldiers. He stood there and watched without speaking out or trying to put a stop to the madness. That is indifference. As Elie Wiesel’s quote says, a person who is neutral in a situation and doesn’t do anything, in one sense has died. This situation of indifference caused the Nazi bystander to metaphorically die. He became a shell of the man he once was and was obviously haunted by his indifference which he took to the grave. The man who had asked Simon for forgiveness had no right to do so. Jewish law teaches that we are obligated to ask for forgiveness directly from the people we have victimized. The Nazi didn’t ask the people he needed to ask for forgiveness. He thought that if he asked one Jew to forgive him, that Jew would represent all the people he had wronged. This outlook is totally warped and makes me think that the SS soldier just wanted a quick way to be forgiven for his wrongdoings. If I were Simon, I would have done the exact same thing he did. I believe that Simon was delicate in not forgiving the man which is the right thing to do. Even when Simon chose not to forgive the man, the way he did showed his true character and strong morals. I would have done the exact same thing by quietly walking out of the room. I have a deeply rooted sense of faith and I believe that what Simon did totally reflected what any other Jew who had faith would have done. I rest my case.
When you think of fun gift baskets that are filled with candy, you wouldn’t associate that mitzvah with another mitzvah on Purim that involves giving to the poor, right? Well think again. The mitzvah I am talking about that involves gift baskets is called Mishloach Manot. This mitzvah basically tells you to prepare a gift basket with food and drinks, and then give it to family or a friend of yours. That sounds very cheerful and welcoming, unlike the second mitzvah of Purim , Matanot La Evyonim, which tells you to give a donation to two poor people. Matanot La Evyonim is a good deed, but it kind of brings you away from the cheerfulness of Purim and reminds you that there are people in the world that can’t afford to celebrate like you can, and maybe that’s what we need. Let me explain.
When you celebrate a holiday as joyous as Purim, you can get caught up in it all and forget about people that don’t have what you do. Matanot La Evyonim kind of makes Purim a more down to earth holiday and not some meaningless festival where you dress up in costume and gorge yourself with hamantaschen. Matanot La Evyonim and Mishloach Manot are both acts of giving, but in different ways. One is more cheerful and joyous while the other is a little more serious and thoughtful. Truthfully, that is what I think Purim is about. Purim is a very joyous holiday, but we need to remember that there are serious aspects to it also which is why I think we need Mishloach Manot and Matanot La Evyonim,
In the Haggadah, a paragraph called הא לחמא עניא states: Let all who are hungry come and eat. Let all who are in need come and make Pesach. In many ways, this reflects some of my experiences on mitzvah trips at the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School and even some of my experiences from driving down a highway to walking down the street. As a Jew, I believe that it is very important to lend a hand to the needy. I have gone on many mitzvah trips to places like food banks and impoverished neighborhoods to give food to the needy. On Thanksgiving, we buy turkeys and deliver them to people’s doors. This really brightens up a person’s holiday and gives them something to eat. Besides mitzvah trips, whenever I see a person who looks like they could use a bite to eat, I give them some money or any food that we have in the car. I also give Tzedakah regularly without being asked to by putting money in my Tzedakah box. All these mitzvah trips have impacted me in a very important way. They have made me more aware of my surroundings and how important it is to feed those who are hungry. For me, I guess you could call it a hunger of the soul.
The Declaration of Independence states that all men are created equal and they have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. As an American citizen, these words hold real meaning for me because in America, you can do anything you set your mind to. Our country is called the land of opportunity because a person who starts from nothing can make a name for himself. As a Jew, I believe that all men are created in God’s image which means that they are created equal. As a man, I feel that we are given more opportunities than women so in that respect, we are not equal. That is something I think our country and the whole world really needs to work on.
As a human being, I wholeheartedly believe these words. I think everyone is created equal because we all start from the bottom and work our way up to the top. Being created equal and being equal are two very different things. Being created equal, in my opinion, only means that you start off the same and then you change. What I mean by all this is that being equal can have some strings attached to it and is all perspective. Someone may feel that they are equal with one person, but that person may feel that they are better than another.
Equality is a state of mind that, in my opinion, has no one definition. Everyone has different views on equality so I think it is actually very hard to say what is equal and what is not. Most people in the world don’t have the privilege of being equal so why should our country have that right. I have thought about this a lot and I have no answer for that. In conclusion, equality is a perspective. Everyone has a different view on what is equal and my view is just a tiny dot in the millions and billions of others, but I believe that everyone is created by God and has the power to choose their own destiny.
This week for my journal, Morah Eta asked me to give an example of how I observe Hiddur Mitzvah. Before I can tell you how I observe this mitzvah, you need to know the meaning of Hiddur Mitzvah. Hiddur Mitzvah is the act of taking a regular mitzvah and beautifying it or making that mitzvah your own. There is one mitzvah I can think of off the top of my head that I have personalized and made my own. That mitzvah is giving Tzedakah.
Usually, when I give Tzedakah, I am prompted to by one of my parents, but a few months ago, I started giving on my own accord. Every time I had change left over from something, I would put it in the Tzedakah box. Nobody reminded me to do it and it always made me feel good when I did do it because I had made it my own. Every time I gave Tzedakah, I put it in a special Tzedakah box that I was given for my Bar Mitzvah and that made the mitzvah of giving Tzedakah feel that much more full of meaning and beauty. In conclusion, even the simplest of things can be made beautiful if you really put your heart into it and give on your own accord.