B’nai TELEM is not just about collecting donations or volunteering at shelters or schools. It’s about cultivating and engaging our next Jewish leaders and activists. It’s about showing students how to be the best they can by giving them the opportunity to give their best to others. Here are one student’s thoughts about his parsha from his bar mitzvah last year. The student has asked to remain anonymous, but his thoughts could reflect any B’nai TELEM student as he or she strives to find his or her path in the community.
My Torah portion, from the book of Leviticus, chapter 3, verses 1 through 17. It explains about how we should give God “the sacrifice of well-being.” This means, to give up what means the most to you, or the best of what you have.
Here is an example of not giving up the best. At the 6th grade bar mitzvah retreat, someone told me that when he was a kid, his family would give away some of their Halloween candy to a shelter. He would keep all of the candy that he liked and put all of the candy that he didn’t like, in the bag going to the shelter. He really wasn’t giving his best.
Now, here are some examples of what I have tried to do to give my best. During Hebrew school, every few weeks, my class goes on trips to help out people. We have gone to a community center, to read books to under-privileged children. We have gone to a retirement home, to hang out with the residents, and we got to know them, and played games with them. Our most recent trip was to a church in Havahhhdd Square in Cambridge, to serve meals to the homeless. Those were sacrifices of the best of our time and attention.
A lot of people think that sacrifice means that you are giving something up, but you are not getting something in return. I have found that when I give my best, I get the satisfaction of doing a good job, or helping people.
B’nai TELEM is currently finishing up its third year as a TELEM program for 6th and 7th grade students. Its structure and philosophy are a bit different than TELEM for high school students, but volunteering and classroom learning are the foundation of the b’nai mitzvah service learning program. To learn more about B’nai TELEM and the fantastic synagogues and programs that participate in it, visit www.telemyouth.org/bt.