Rachel was just telling me how it was strange for her to think of her friends in Durham as being her same age—as kids old enough to be in middle school, doing thirteen-year-old things—because she thinks of them as being somewhat frozen in time. They will forever be ten-year-olds, stuck in Mrs. Garrett's fifth-grade classroom, doing things that ten-year-olds do.
And then I got a message from her friend Elijah's mom, announcing his Bar Mitzvah, which under ordinary times might have been a huge blow out, but which under present circumstances was slated to be a virtual celebration. We would have been happy to attend either way (although attending in person would have required a lot more effort on our part...and probably their part as well, to be honest) but were more than happy to tune in and watch.
They had created a little sanctuary in their home, featuring a quilt Elijah's grandma made (which is simply spectacular, don't you think?). Rachel especially liked that the scriptures were on a scroll (exciting!) rather than in boring ol' book form. Elijah did a great job with his recitations (Shoftim and Maftir) and lecture, or d'var torah (talking about the torah). He spoke about how if someone purposely commits murder their punishment is death (in the torah) but how if they commit manslaughter it's simply banishment, because although they didn't intend to cause harm, they still did cause harm. One's intentions are irrelevant; if harm is caused they still need to be responsible for their actions. He said that today we often see examples of purposeful harm—such as blatant discrimination based on religion or race or sexual orientation—and that those instances of harm are relatively easy to condemn and, hopefully, rectify. But there are also many examples of implicit bias that are alive and well in our communities that we have a duty to root out, such as the fact that black children are more likely to face suspension from school than white children. The teachers and administrators might not feel they are being racist when they suspend a black child while offering more leniency to a white child, but they are, and we need to be watchful for these smaller, unintentional acts of harm so that we can responsibly avoid them.
He said it better than I did, I'm sure. He really did a great job!