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Ki Tavo and Bar Mitzvah of Joshua Hauer: September 1, 2018

Rabbi Randall Konigsburg

Shabbat Shalom

Josh, this week is a pretty difficult Parsha to read. I am sure that you realize that there are good parts in life; vacations, ice cream and sleeping late are just a few examples. And you also know that there are the not-so-good parts of life; homework, Mondays and cleaning up your room. It is my job today to tell you that life can be so much better than what you know is good, and it can be so much worse than what you consider bad.

And that is what becoming an adult is all about. Enjoying the good times even when we know that difficult days lie ahead. Life is always filled with unexpected moments. There will be times when you will suddenly be recognized for something special that you have accomplished, and there will be times when all your best efforts will fall apart right before your eyes. There will be days of great happiness, like today, and days of incredible sadness and grief. I would like to say that Judaism and the synagogue can prevent such bad days, but that would not be true. Bad days and hard times come to everyone, no matter who they are and no matter how faithful and religious they are. I am sorry to say, Josh, but that’s life.

But just because I can’t change life, does not mean that your Rabbi can’t help. As your parsha says, the blessings come from the way you choose to live your life and by making good choices, you can prevent the bad days from spiraling out of control. Josh, what you are going to discover is that the bad times are not so bad if you don’t have to do them alone. It is no fun to be sick, but it is far less fun to be sick and all by yourself. It is awful to be sad, but it is far worse to be sad and alone.

This is why we have Judaism. This is why we have a Jewish people. Each of us have a responsibility to offer a hand to those who are struggling. And when we are the one struggling, we know we can rely on others to extend their hands to us. Judaism teaches us the importance of standing together. Yes, the Torah today has some terrible curses that would come for not living a good life. But the bad things in life are never so bad when we have friends nearby to cheer us up and help us through our suffering. We may encounter dark days, but it is amazing how one candle, one flashlight can push away a lot of darkness. It is amazing how one friend can make our pain more bearable.

Josh, you go to camp. You know what happens in the dining hall when someone drops an entire tray of food or dishes. Everyone in the room cheers and claps about the noise and work that will have to be done to clean up the mess. But Josh, think for a moment about the kid who drops the platter. He may laugh and clown around during the cheering but you and I both know, that inside, that kid is wishing he could just disappear out of his embarrassment. He may have a smile on his face but inside he is crying. I will bet that you would not want to be in his shoes at that moment.

But Josh, think for a minute about what would happen if you got up from your chair, got down on the floor and helped this kid clean up his mess. You stopped to help him put the things back on his platter and help him clean up the floor. How do you think that kid feels about you being there to help him, and not just stand around and cheer? Josh that is about all it takes to be a hero in someone’s eyes. I can promise you that there will be other kids, among those cheering, who wish they would have the kindness in their heart to do what you are doing.

Josh, that is the choice that Parshat Ki Tavo is giving us. You can be one of the people who cheer or one of the people who get down on the floor to help clean up the mess. You get to choose each day what kind of a person you want to be. You get to make that choice every day. THAT is what being an adult is all about.

Josh you have some good examples about what being a kind and caring person is all about. You have your parents who give so much time to help with good causes in the community. They are quick to help make bad days better for others. Your Grandparents also set the example of service to the community. As you get older you will grow to understand just how important their work in the community is. And already, you are reaching out to those who are hungry in our community by providing food and support for our local food Pantry. Josh, you are well on your way to living a life of Hesed, of kindness (no matter how much you fight with your brother).

Always remember, Josh, you have a choice in life. You have no choice as to what life will bring you, but you do have a choice about how you will respond to whatever life brings. Our prayer is that your good days should always outnumber the bad and that God should help you grow your kind heart so that you can be the light that will help others find their way in the darkness.  May God always be with you as we say ….

Amen and Shabbat Shalom

Sermon given by Rabbi Randall Konigsburg at Beth Sholom B’nai Israel on Saturday, September 1, 2018.

Fri, May 24 2019 19 Iyyar 5779