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Bar Mitzvah Speech by Benjamin Bass

The following D’var Torah was delivered by Benjamin Bass at his Bar Mitzvah on Saturday, June 9, 2018. 

Shabbat Shalom! This week’s Torah portion is Sh’lach. In this week’s Torah portion there is the well-known episode of the spies. Moshe sends 12 spies, 1 spy from each tribe except the tribe of Levy. After a good forty days the spies come back. They say that there is a lot of fruit, but they say that there are giants and that Israel could never win.

There were two spies that were true to God’s promise to Israel; that was Caleb and Joshua. They reported the same, but with a positive outlook. Did I really think the Caps would win the Stanley Cup? No way, but I had a positive outlook and they ended up winning.

B’nai Israel had a different view. They said no way. We can’t beat giants, they are big and strong and their cities are fortified. Maybe if I were an Israelite I would also think that Joshua and Caleb were crazy. But, maybe not. Because I am a Washington sports fan, with a positive outlook.

As the Israelites always said, they repeated, “Ohhh we were way better off in Egypt.” The Israelites are like me when it comes to taking out the trash — they just say that whatever is better than doing this. But God is always shaking things up. God threatens to abandon the people. Then God says: “Maybe I’ll give Moshe a new people to lead.”

Moshe says: “I understand your anger. You just have to understand that you are the big guy so just chill out. And if you do something like this, the other people will say that you weren’t able to handle them.” So, God just says the older Israelites can’t enter the land of Israel. And then God put in the wrong Israel on the GPS so that it took them forty years of walking around a desert and only the younger Israelites could go in.

The younger Israelites won’t only go in the land in style, they’re gonna conquer the land and be the coolest people around. In the Parasha there is also a description of the sacrifices that have to be brought to the sanctuary, and laws about how to treat the stranger (Ger). I have been a stranger (or ger) a few times in my life.

When I started at Gesher and JDS, the kids treated me as Moses instructs, like… nicely. At the end of the Parasha, B’nai Israel are told to attach blue cords on the fringes of their clothes. It doesn’t say anything about how the clothes have to look. I think I definitely took this a bit far. When the Rabbi and I sat down to talk about my tallit she asked: “What color would you like?”

I started naming 100 different colors for different reasons.  She said, “No, narrow it down.” So I narrowed it down to the few important things in my life. The red, white, and blue are for America, the Nats, the Caps, and the Wiz. The blue, green, white, and yellow are for Brazil. The green, red, and white is for Fluminense, our soccer team from Rio de Janeiro (Nense!). And last but not least, the blue and white on my attarah is for Israel. I feel a great connection to all of these teams and countries because they’ve all had an impact on me. America is where I was born so I guess that’s important. The Nats have been a part of my life since third grade. The Caps are probably my favorites because as many of you know from the story my mom has told you, I was two years old with a broom in hand and running around the house yelling, “Alex Ovechkin!” And then we became crazy fans. And the Wizards, like all of these teams, break my heart.

Brazil has been such a big part especially when it comes to soccer. There was one time that Brazil and the US were playing a friendly at FedEx Field. I came prepared to root for Brazil.

When Brazil scored a goal, me and my mom would go crazy but the rest of the crowd was silent.

Sticking with soccer, we have my favorite team Fluminense. My family, especially my grandpa (zichrono livrachah), brought me up tricolor … and that team is the biggest heartbreak of all.

Last but not least, Israel. Israel is where Judaism comes from and it’s just really cool to have gone there twice. I highly recommend it.

Thank you, Morah Laura, for always saying hi to me when I walk in and out of the office – again, and again, and again… Thank you, Marni, Ms. Marcy, and Edgar for doing so much for me, and having a big impact on my life. Thank you to all my teachers at Etz Hayim since the Chatool class – that’s preschool.

Thank you to the congregation, to all my shul grandparents, aunts and uncles – you are awesome! Thank you especially to the Sisterhood who have sponsored the kiddush for my brit milah, for feeding me breakfast every Shabbat and holiday, and for the wonderful Kiddush that we will enjoy shortly.

Thank you to the family and friends who came from near and far.  Muito obrigado a todos que vieram do Brasil e de Israel para celebrar este momento tao especial comigo!

Thank you to Tia Janet for always letting me hitch a ride or sleepover with your family. Thank you to Tio Henrique for kicking a ball around or playing foosball. Thank you to Beyla for always saying hi to me wherever we are and…I have more snapchat stickers than you.

Thank you to Manny for not beating me too bad at Mario Kart. Thank you to Avi for always being there, for bringing me back a Senegal jersey, and for always including me even if I was five and you were fifteen.

Thank you to Tia Bianca for always making me better when I have an injury. Thank you to Tio J for throwing a ball around and having talks with me when I can’t sleep and also wearing the Caps holy horns. Thank you Raphael for being a good kid and letting me play with you. Thank you Clara for being a good person to just hang out with and talk.

Thank you so, SO much to vovo (grandma) for being my personal chauffeur, ice cream buddy, and also being the coolest all the time. Thank you also for making brigadeiros, the chocolate caramel little things that we will have during kiddush.

Last but not least, thank you to my mom. She is the most loving mom ever. She is so nice to me. She is my sports go-to, my la liga buddy, and for being one of my favorite yids.

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