Do a little exercise as you are reading this. Put the paper down on a table. Now, slowly and with intention, take your hands and hold them in front of you. Hold them palms up toward the sky and contemplate how it feels. Now slowly rotate your hands and hold them with your palms toward the ground. It feels different, doesn’t it?
What we seek for our young Bar Mitzvah boy is a new paradigm of Jewish masculinity.
Late spring in Los Angeles: cool, foggy mornings, with sun breaking through around midday. The strawberries are sweet and luscious; the gardens are full of roses. It's the season of simchas. Our calendars are crowded with graduations and family parties, but most of all with weddings.
It is wonderful to volunteer more, do more, commit more. But our tradition, with love and practicality, offers this caution: Check first that your basic obligations are met.
Who is greater: a person who is obligated to perform a certain act and does, or a person who is not obligated to perform the act but does it anyway? According to modern sensibilities, the second person is a hero, whereas the first may just be a drone. According to the Talmud, however, the first person is the hero. It is often easy and fun to volunteer. Whatever you do is appreciated, and when you get bored, you can stop. It is difficult and rare, however, to fulfill one's own obligations constantly.