>We have wonderful teens here at TSTI. They are bright, kind and committed to tikkun olam. They are also quite thoughtful and inspiring… as this D’var Torah from TSTI teen, and STISY Religious and Cultural Vice-President, Mollie Weisenfeld shows…
(Note- this D’var Torah was delivered at the Erev Rosh Hashanah Teen Service. Our thanks to Mollie for allowing us to share it with the entire community.)
D’var on B’resheet
L’shana tova. The Torah portion for Rosh Hashanah is B’resheet, better known as the Story of Creation. Over the course of six days, God creates heaven and earth, day and night, water and sky, land, vegetation, the sun and the moon, living creatures of land, sea, and sky. God created humans-first Adam, then Eve, and placed them in the Garden of Eden. On the seventh day, God rested, and this day was called Shabbat.
God created humans in God’s image. This does not mean God’s physical likeness because God has no body or form. Instead it means that we as people were given the powers of mind and reason-the ability to think about life and understand it on more than an instinctual level. And because we are the only animals who can truly do this, God made us the guardians of our world. Our choices make a difference in all the lives around us. Humans are smart and creative. But sometimes we go too far, and in creating for ourselves, we destroy for others; we hurt them-humans and different animals alike.
We hurt animals with our actions against them and the environment they live in. We cut down trees that house birds so that we can have paper or make homes of our own. We dispense gases into the air in emissions from our factories. Most recently, the BP oil spill has dumped anywhere from 92 million gallons to 327 million gallons of crude oil into Gulf since April 22nd. (pbs.org)
Humanity also hurts each other with words, actions, or inaction. Angry fights, throwing insults, or allowing a bully to tease someone without interference all damage people. If we are the guardians of our world, entrusted by God to aid all creations, how can we allow these tragedies occur?
That is not to say that humanity is evil, because it’s not. We are human and we make mistakes. In giving us the power to think and take action, God gave us two options: the inclination to do good, yetzer ha-tov, and the inclination to do evil, yetzer ha-ra. Though there are people who hurt the world and those who live here, there are also those who strive to make it a better place. For example, there are activists who protest the cutting of rare trees, protect endangered species, and volunteer to clean up the destruction caused by natural disasters like earthquakes, though they were unaffected. There are people who donate money to organizations that help sick, disadvantaged people all over the world. Even right here at Temple, in STISY, we go on Midnight Run to give out clothes and food to the homeless.
There are individual good deeds people do on their own: helping up someone who has fallen, rescuing a baby bird that left the nest too early, or just smiling at someone and saying hello. These mitzvot don’t even have to help someone else. When was the last time you did something just for yourself, something special that you knew you’d enjoy? I know mine: I was at a writing camp in August. The camp was located in Massachusetts in the middle of a forest. My very first day there, I had noticed a trail going through the woods, but none of my friends were interested in exploring, so I didn’t go. Finally, on the second to last day, while everyone else was packing, I got up the courage and went alone. The hike took me about an hour and when I came out of the woods, I felt refreshed. Happy. I had gone for the walk because I wanted to, and with no one to talk to or entertain, I was able to focus wholly on myself and just reflect.
So this Rosh Hashanah, I would like you to do two things: take time out of your life to do something for another, and take time for yourself. Go read up on the oil spill and learn how to help, if you want. Call up your grandparents and tell them about your summer. Smile at a stranger you pass on the street. And when you’ve done that, do something just for you. Watch a movie you’ve been meaning to see. Sleep an extra hour on the weekend. Bake a cake simply because you have the ingredients in the house. Because when God created this world, God knew it wasn’t going to be perfect. But we were put here to protect what had been made and better it. God created us to help out.