Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bar & Bat Mitzvahs: Spending Ourselves into Oblivion

Bar Mitzvahs typically are foolishly extravagant to a degree that is Jewishly unjustifiable. Nothing about being a boy becoming 13 or a girl becoming 12 justifies the insanity of turning it into a wedding, replete with a 20-minute film retrospective on the kid's life, as though it were the Biography Channel reviewing the life of Abraham Lincoln.

In this time of massive economic crisis, it must be quite a spectacle for many to behold Jewish profligacy in spending $15,000-$50,000 on a kid's 13th birthday.

I am reminded of the commentary on Yaakov Avinu sending his sons to Egypt on their first go- round to ask for food (as it turned out, from their brother Yosef). Did they really need food? Were they being impacted adversely by the same famine that affected others? (The question is amplified because we know that the "seven-year" famine predicted by Yosef lasted only two years in Egypt, stopped "prematurely" by Hashem when Yaakov arrived there and bestowed a brakhah on Par'oh. Rashi & Tanchuma on Breishit 47:10. )

So, in Breishit 42:1, Rashi brings the Gemara from Ta'anit 10b that says they still had ample food. Ya got that? Yaakov and his sons had ample food in Canaan, and they did not need to ask for food from Egypt. Nonetheless, Yaakov said to his sons in Cana'an: "Lamah tit-ra'u?" which Rashi defines as "Why make yourselves be seen [by the non-Jews around us as though you are sated]?" That is, when everyone around is starving, it is not our way to refrain from seeking food from Par'oh, just like everyone else. Don't relish while others lack.

That should be the slogan in American Jewish Life -- "Lamah Tit-ra'u?" It really is a terrible thing, not only insane and counter-intuitive, a source of fodder for fostering hatred, but such excessive galas also impose enormous burdens on the majority of amkha who do not have the courage and commonsense to resist the social pressures to spend beyond their means on these foolish events.

No comments:

Post a Comment