Evan, when you read your parsha, it reads like a technical manual. And it shows us exactly why we never read technical manuals. This section of Leviticus talks about the duties and responsibilities of the priests who worked in the ancient Temple. What they should wear to work. When they need to show up. What they can do, what they can’t do. What are workdays and which days are holidays and what work priests have to do even on holidays.
Evan, if you bought a new computer, you would go to the quick start guide and do what you needed to do to get the computer up and running. There is a formal manual, you can find it online, that tells you all the technical details of the computer, how much RAM it can take and how you can add it. You can find the clock speed of the processor, the refresh rate of the video card, the speed of the WiFi adapter, the capacities of the different ports on the computer and there will be information on how the different components could be swapped out if you wish to update the different parts.
I will bet you know how to find that technical manual and I will bet that you have never bothered to look at it since you started using the computer. I could say the same thing about your cell phone, your iPad, or any other electronic device you may own.
I will venture to say that it is not because you are a carefree young person because, correct me if I am wrong, but all of us drive cars with a multi volume manual that can be found in the glove compartment of our cars and if any of us have opened it even once or twice, I would be impressed. The point here is that while I am sure that there are historians and Bibliophiles who may be interested in the rules for those who lived a special life in the time of the ancient Temple, most of us will yawn and find something more interesting to read in the blessings and curses of next week’s Parsha.
But Evan, I want to point out to you something in this section that you may find very interesting indeed. You see, the priests not only had to dress right and act in a proper manner, they also had to do their jobs within a specific time frame. Some things had to be done daily in the morning, some were reserved for later in the day and there were clean up duties that had to occur at night. You see Evan, in the ancient world, timing is everything.
Evan I think you understand that concept very well. First of all because you are a dancer and even in the world of hip hop, timing is everything. If you are not moving with the beat of the music, your movements are just clumsy and odd. There is an old Hasidic story of a group praying in the synagogue who were so moved by the music they got up and began to dance around the sanctuary. A deaf man passed by outside, unable to hear the music, looked in and said, “Insane, they are all acting insane”. With the music there is art in the dance, outside the music, it is all insane. Timing is everything.
But let’s look at Baseball. When you come to bat, you look at the pitcher, gauge the distance between the pitcher’s mound and the plate. You watch the windup and the pitch and instantly calculate if you can hit that ball and when to swing the bat for maximum impact. Ball has to meet bat at just the right moment to score the run. Too early or too late will send it off as a foul and if you miss it altogether, it is a strike against you. Timing is everything.
It is the same out in the field. There is the crack of the bat and your eye and brain are making thousands of calculations a second to determine where you will go to catch the ball. If your timing is off the ball will fall in front of you or in back of you or may even roll between your legs and you will be charged with an error. Timing is everything.
I could take the cheap road here and say that with your Bar Mitzvah timing is everything as well. If you knew all your work six months ago nobody would care and if you were not ready for this day and needed another six months, you would have looked very foolish. That you were ready as this day came is a mark of your commitment to your work and your commitment to being ready on time. All of this is true but there is a greater point that has to be made here.
Evan, all of life is about timing. All of your education, your practice, your skills, your intelligence, it is all about timing. There will come a day, Evan, and we really never quite know when, where everything will come together. Your quick reflexes as a ball player, your skilled movements as a dancer, the lessons that you have learned in school and the beliefs and commandments of your faith, all will come together in a moment; and in that moment, you will understand why the world could not go on without Evan Carlson. You will know why God put you here, why you were blessed with such wonderful parents. You will know why you went to school each day and will appreciate your teachers and all that they had to teach you. It may be a moment in the spotlight in dance, it may be a moment at bat, at the bottom of the ninth with the winning run on base, it may be a moment when you are called to choose right or wrong to let the world know just what kind of a man you are.
I don’t know when your time will come, but Evan, you will have to be ready. You will have to deliver the performance, the skill, the intelligence, the ethical choice at that moment, on time. Your response will make a difference to your family, to your community, perhaps to the country and to the world. It is a huge responsibility that is being placed on you. From all you have done, we know that we have placed that responsibility on the right shoulders. I know you Evan; you are quiet, humble and maybe a bit shy about all of this. But you can’t deny that when you were called to the Torah today, you responded, on time, to our call. From your dedication to all that you have done today, we know that in the future, you will always be ready when the time is right.
May God always be with you, preparing you for whatever life has to offer. And when there is a moment that calls for the knowledge and skills of Evan Carlson, May you always have the faith and courage to show up on time: ready to answer that call.
Mazal Tov to you Evan and to your family on this most special day.
Sermon given by Rabbi Randall Konigsburg at Beth Sholom B’nai Israel on Saturday, May 13, 2017.