On June 11-28 1776 the words that Thomas Jefferson would recite would form the bonds, barriers, and protective layers of our country. When he said, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” I doubt he knew to the extent that his words would reach. It seems that this part of the Declaration deals with all men being equal, but are they really?
I think equality is a great idea…but it is also impossible. Maybe Jefferson is talking about the fact that everyone has to abide by the same laws and has equal say, (which I could also argue is not true) but if we are speaking of individuals and not the masses, equality is impossible to reach. Even though all men and women are made the same way and in America have many freedoms, the playing field is not level. People of a different race, ethnicity, or gender often suffer taunting and harassment from their fellow Americans. But let us skip that for now, this is the real reason why America is not equal, because no place can be equal. If this country was going to be equal, all men and women would have to be the same. No one could be different or unique, see the thing that flaws the idea of equality is individuality because each person is a different person and are often treated differently.
As an American citizen, I think these word protect and free us. They free us because they give us the hope of happiness and love, but slip a net over us because equality is comparing the masses and making you more like them. As a Jew, people have not treated me badly because of it which I am happy for. I think all people should have the equal opportunity to be respected for race and religion. As a man I often hear of gender equality and believe all people to have human right. As a person, I wish Thomas Jeffersons words would affect all people and make them better.
If you don’t go, a long long time ago, there was a rabbi named Rabbi Hillel. He was a very esteemed man in his time. He was a scholar who was often known for dishing out advice and for helping the community at large. Hillel once said, “Do not separate yourself from the community.” This is a piece of advice has a lot to do with our past mitzvah project. We went out into to the community and delivered thanksgiving meals to those who probably wouldn’t receive any food otherwise. I found so much meaning in doing this mitzvah project, especially after the fact. This is because every year after thanksgiving I realize how lucky I am to have my family and to be able to have such a wonderful holiday. This makes me want to help other feel the same kind of enjoyment that I do.
Back to the topic of Hillel though. How did the Thanksgiving project we did show an example of putting this verse into practice? Well it kind of seems obvious, but let me just say it. We are going out into the community to willing, with no reward but the smile on their face, brighten the weekends of certain members of the community. We are giving back to the community in general, which provides us with so many chances to grow as a person. We are staying connected with the community by helping some of the impoverished citizens which helps the community as a whole. We are truly staying in touch with the community.
Why is it important that we reach out to members of the community who we don’t even know? Not only does it give us a good reputation, but it also is the highest form of giving. Giving with no reward. We don’t know these people. Were doing it to help the world though because every basket of food delivered counts.
This week, we went to the cemetery and cleaned graves for those who are no longer with us. It was quite a memorable experience, because it is paying your respects to the people. I was asked the question, what Mitzvah is it? Honestly, I don’t really know and when I looked it up I couldn’t find any definite answer. So, I am going to take a guess. I think it is Mitzvoth Hamet.
This project is actually very meaningful to me. It seems like what it does is brings us closer to each other and to those who are no longer here. Cleaning they graves seems like honoring them, which all people, here or nor, deserve. Cleaning the cemetery is a way of giving back to some people who have done so much for you. Some people who have no relatives have no one to clean their grave, so we do them a big service. Graves aren’t the way books depict them. They aren’t particularly scary, except at night.
What was my favorite part. Well I don’t think anyone should have a favorite part of cleaning a cemetery, but I can definitely tell you my most meaningful. I actually have a few. I found it meaningful when I took time to acknowledge the old ritual director before everyone came over. I really felt meaning in a cleaning a woman’s grave named Beverly. I knew Beverly well and knew her children even better. I stay at one of they houses every year, so they shared meaning in what I did to.
On Rosh Hashanah it is written, and on Yom Kippur it is sealed.
How many will pass and how many will be created?
Who will live and who will die?
Who in their time, and who not their time?
Who by fire and who by water?
Who by sword and who by beast?
Who by hunger and who by thirst?
Who by earthquake and who by drowning?
Who by strangling and who by stoning?
Who will rest and who will wander?
Who will be safe and who will be torn?
Who will be calm and who will be tormented?
Who will become poor and who will get rich?
Who will be made humble and who will be raised up?
But teshuvah and tefillah and tzedakah (return and prayer and righteous acts)
deflect the evil of the decree.
The theme of teshuvah -תשובה , tefillah – תפילה and tzedakah – צדקה deflecting the evil decree is repeated throughout the Days of Repentance עשרת ימי תשובה. How did YOU personally do teshuvah -תשובה , tefillah – תפילה and tzedakah – צדקה during The Days of Repentance עשרת ימי תשובה. Write one paragraph for each. (If you feel that what you write is extremely personal you can email it to me instead of posting it on your blog.)
Teshuvah. Repentance. How did I personally repent this holiday season? To repent. Is to ask for forgiveness of something. It is, for me, the act of wanting to start a new and put the past behind us. I went to Tashlich, and repented. That isn’t that special, because I do that every year. For starters, every year at Tashlich, I actually do take it seriously. I spend every year taking this small amount of time to say sorry. To the all people I wronged and all things I said. To the people I hurt etc. What was cool this year is that most of my family wasn’t there, so I repented for their sins myself. I took extra bread and told G-d that I and hopefully everyone and forgiven them for anything they had done.
Tzedakah. Giving. How did I give this holiday season? SOOO a couple of days before the holidays, our family was going to school. We had one bag left over from our mitzvah project. We saw a man who had scars and a black and blue face on the road. He looked like he had had a hard time lately. We immediately rolled down the window and gave the food to him. We were met with gratitude.
Tefillah. Prayer. Those of you who know me know I am not good with hebrew. SOOO. On Rosh Hashanah I read the Haftorah English style. It was a meaningful story about this barren wife who God grants a child. I thought abut it for a while and concluded how truly wonderful life is. Everyday the grass grows greener and I grow bigger and more people are born and well. Well, you and I, we grow less significant, but isn’t that not an amazing thing. Maybe you need to look at it from another perspective I would say.
“Ahahahaha.” Wow that was fun. Yelling curse words at 50 miles an hour with a helmet on and driving in and out making illegal turns is awesome. You know that moment when your by yourself, but your so hyped up and know one is there to see it with you. That was how I felt. Within that helmet it was like I was the only person on earth. My own little world. I am just going to tell you about the last race I did at Autobahn Indoor Go-kart racing. Each race consists of about 15 laps and 10ish minutes. It was my brother and my birthday. We get suited up and head to the more advanced of the two tracks. Yelling at the top of your lungs while waiting to hit the asphalt track was sweet. My hards were clammy, but I guess all races go through that. Even having seat moved up because I was to short wasn’t enough to daunt me. The little green go button seemed to be telling me to hit it. I waited. The tension in my leg was building up I had to move. Then the track was opened up and in I zoomed. The world sped up around me. The wheel, flexible a few seconds before now, was stiff as a board. I started rapping song lyrics to myself to get me more stoked. The course consisted of small turns and then a long area of track that reminded me of a bridge turned sideways. In and out I went swerving and skidding and constantly drifting. I had learned in the past races that breaks were a no-no. I was on the second or third lap when I took the lead with a record of 25.something seconds. I felt like I could relax a little more which is why I would throw my mom an occasional hand gesture. It was now around the seventh lap and I was down to second. My performance had slowly been arcing in a downward spiral. Elior, clarification he is my brother, was in third and life is just a humungous competition for us so I had to at least beat him. I came up on him and tried to get around. His side made contact with causing him to veer off into the the side wall during the race. I had to yank the wheel repeatedly to the side to turn left. Anyone who has raced knows sharp turns and brakes cause you to drift. That makes your wheels go sideways. They make a terrible screeching sound and throw you off for a couple of seconds. However, I bounced back faster then the speed of light. By the end of the race I was still in second with my brother in third. I raised my hands triumphantly. It was one of the funnest days ever.
Willing To Take Charge Verse to connect: Where there is no guidance the people fall, Proverbs 11:14
This week for our Mitzvah Project we watched a movie called Big Hero Six. It is about boy genius in an imaginary crossover city of Tokyo and San Francisco. He is amazing with robots and creates a machine that allows him to control tiny microchips that he can change into anything using brain power. His brother dies in a fire after an exhibition of his machine. An evil man who turns out to be a professor at the school he is trying to get into caused the fire and stole the microchips to revenge his daughter. The main carted links up with his robot companions and friends to stop the evil villain. He stops him and becomes a leader and slight super hero in the process.
A verse that connects to this movie is Proverbs 11:14, Where there is no guidance the people fall. I think this relates to the movie for multiple reasons. I feel like the main character and his brother were like two supporting beams in a bridge that already had two beams destroyed. (His parents) Once his brother died the bridge collapsed and our hero was totally lost. Unaware and scared he had no one to guide him. Maybe the main character new about this verse because he realized that when there is no guidance, it means it is time for someone to guide his family and friends. That was definitely a major plot in the movie.
This movie also relates to the upcoming holiday Rosh Hashanah. The new year in Judaism. I feel like when the main character’s brother died he was forced to start a new. That is a very hard thing to do in any situation. Sometimes you don’t want to let go. Maybe letting go means forgetting people you love or for getting to think of them all the time. I often don’t want to let go, but at the end of Rosh Hashanah my pockets are always empty. My sins and some of my good memories might be gone.
Summer just totally flew by and I wasn’t even in a plane much. (That was a cheesy joke). No, mostly I used a car as transportation and cars are pretty awesome. Walking to summer camp would have been pretty hard. Though cars seem preeettttyy magical, they are actually very scientific. The first car or automobile was invented in 1885 and has progressed through history growing in number, safety precautions, and speed. Most people you know, but have you asked yourself how does a car really work? I mean we all know there is an engine, but where does that come into play? Today we will se how a couple parts of the car work.
First off, cars work because of petroleum a certain kind of oil. Most modes of transportation use petroleum. Burning a fire burns petroleum in a very wasteful way. Cars are very effective in not burning large amounts of petroleum wastefully. Engines are made up of cylinders of any number from 2 to 12. They are where the fuel burns and these cylinders open and close. Valves on the top allow gas and other substances to enter the cylinder. Crankshaft, which is located on one of the bottoms of the cylinders is what powers the gearbox and by definition the wheel.
Itamar Lubliner Speech
Shabbat Shalom (pause) Thank you for being here to celebrate with us today. Becoming a Bar Mitzvah has been something I’ve looked forward to for many years, even as I’ve been involved in lots of different things. I always like to play basketball, skate, and spend time with my friends. I love to do pretty much every athletic activity, but even when I’m not running around, I can always keep myself busy both reading and writing. I love spending time at Camp Ramah Darom, where I was for one month this summer, and it has a very special place in my heart. It’s at camp where I’ve made many lifelong friends and learned many life lessons.
Among the lessons I’ve learned is that life throws many things your way. At least that’s what a lot of people tell me. That I have to prepare for the future because what could happen tomorrow is unknown. When people say to be prepared they usually mean to expect the worst. But couldn’ tomorrow be a brighter day. A day of happiness, a day surrounded by friends and family? Well tomorrow has already happened because I am living tomorrow’s dream today. Surrounded by family and friends, This is a happy day for me. According to the haftorah of Shoftim it is also a happy day for Israel.
The Haftarah for Parashat Shoftim is taken from the second half of the book of Isaiah, sometimes called “Deutero” or “second Isaiah”. It is called this because it was written 150 years after the first part of the book, just about the time the Jews were preparing to return home from exile in Babylonia. This haftorah is the fourth in a series of seven special readings that follow Tisha B’av known as the Haftarot of Consolation. They are all taken from the latter part of Isaiah and speak about comforting and Consoling the Israelites after the temple was destroyed and other related tragedies. In the readings of the last two weeks, the Israelites remain upset and angry at God for abandoning them, and making them suffer. But this week is finally the time when God forgives the people.
The Haftarah begins with the line:
אָנֹכִי אָנֹכִי הוּא, מְנַחֶמְכֶם
“I, I am The One who comforts you!” God is finally forgiving and comforting the people after everything that has happened to them. This theme is also reflected in the many familiar phrases of the Haftarah which are easy to recognize because they are seen in the Shabbat prayer Lkha Dodi which talks about comforting Israel and restoring Jerusalem to its former glory. In chapter 51 verse 17 we read התעוררי התעוררי קומי ירושלים. Which in English means “Rouse, rouse yourself arise oh Jerusalem.”
At the beginning of Chapter 52, which is the first line I will be reading, we find עורי עורי לבשי בגדי תיפרתך Which translates to our language as “awake, awake oh Zion, clothe yourself in splendor, put on your robes of majesty” and one verse later it states היתנרי מאפר קומי שבי ירושלום. Get yourself up, shake off the dust, sit on your throne Jerusalem!
In the early parts of the Haftarah, the Israelites expressed a sense of hopelessness after all the tragic events they have been through. Can you imagine feeling, abandoned by the only One in your life there to heal you, to comfort you, to save you?
From reading this Haftarah we realize that G-d is described as having human emotion.. He comforts, loves, gets angry, forgives, and then comforts again. God is the ultimate comforter in the bible for the people of israel. Our ancestors took comfort in the FACT that they knew God was real. In our lifetimes we may never know for sure, without any doubt, that God is real. Personally, I often question G-d’s existence. Look at the terrible things in the world going on right now terrorists and criminals run rampant. Seeing all the evil in the world, can sometimes be frustrating. It’s Scary to think that with all the bad things, G-d might not be there help.
Because the Rabbis were disturbed that at times the wicked seemed to prosper while the righteous suffer they came to teach that punishment for the disgusting things some people do may not come in this lifetime, but it would eventually come, inflicted by God in the next.
No one can force us to believe in the existence of a greater being. It’s our own job to question our beliefs and draw our own conclusions. From thinking about this Haftarah, I have come to believe that God can comfort us when we act as god’s partners in the process.
There is a story that I have heard time and time again about a man, trying to survive a flood. The man clinging for dear life to his roof while the water level rises rapidly higher prays to God to save him. A boat comes along and offers to take him on the boat safety.
But he answers, “No, no God will save me.” So the boat leaves. A helicopter comes along and the pilot shouts, “Come with me to safety.”
The man answer similarly, “No, God Will save me.” The helicopter flies away. The water level rises over his head and the man drowns. In heaven he asks God why didn’t you save me and God answers, “I tried to, I sent a boat and then a helicopter.”
The moral of the story is about experiencing God through the positive acts of others and that God often acts in ways that we don’t realize. If another person ever needs comfort, than I should try to comfort them because all of us are made in G-d’s image.
The Talmud teaches us that we must strive to be like God. But how can human beings be like God? Rather we must try to follow God’s attributes as God visits the sick so should you, as god comforts those in need so should you. In doing so we fulfill gods words. And even if you do struggle with believing in G-d, hopefully the idea of G-d can still lead us to good things.
I hope that this Haftarah can help us all find our belief and comfort in God, so that we all have somewhere to turn to.
There have been many people who helped me get to this fabulous point in my life. I would like to thank my teachers at the Martin J Gottlieb Day School for teaching me all the things I needed to learn. Thank you to Rabbi Tilman for helping me prepare this speech, and thank you to Hazzan Holzer for helping me learn the tefilot and Torah reading. Thank you to Rabbi Lubliner for being a big help for thirteen years. To Scott Zimmerman, thank your for setting me on the right track and getting my started process one year ago. Zichro Livracha. May he rest in peace. Thank you to all my school and camp friends for making everyday fun and interesting. I would also like to thank my family members who came into town to help me celebrate this special occasion.
A special thank you to Savta, who is always there for us and has a special part in our lives. Thank you to Avi and Elior for being awesome brothers, and of course to my Parents who share these joyful moments with me and for supporting me at every turn. Finally, I would like to thank everyone for coming to celebrate my brother and I taking this major step in life.
Please follow along while my brother and I chant our Haftorah on page 1108.