August 19, 2019

The First Mitzvah of 5775

As usual this year, our synagogue sanctuary was filled to the brim for Rosh Hashanah services. The services were full of beautiful music, the sounds of the shofar, sincere prayers, and deep, meaningful moments. Yet it was what happened afterward that struck me the most.

Immediately after services we had a reception in the outdoor courtyard, with water and lemonade, as well as cookies, apples, and honey. The honey was in cups, and a couple of bees were, naturally, attracted to it. One of the bees was hungrily sucking up the honey from the rim of a cup, but another had flown down to the bottom of the cup, and had become stuck in the honey. It was the very definition of too much of a good thing.

I am sad to say I didn’t think much of it. I don’t think it even registered in my mind that the bee might be stuck or that its life was in danger. In all likelihood I would have just walked away, but then along came Sadie.

I’m not good at judging age, but I would guess Sadie is still in her pre-bat mitzvah years. Like Moses who saw that the burning bush was not being consumed, but which others may have just walked by in ignorance, Sadie saw that bee in the bottom of the cup, and she noticed it was stuck there. Her immediate instinct was to rescue it.

First, she looked around for a tool to help. Wisely, there was no way she was going to reach into that cup with her hand. Seeing the limited resources available, she reluctantly picked up a piece of apple, and reached into the cup with it.

I say reluctantly because Sadie was clearly afraid the bee might sting her. Indeed, she cried out and waved her hands in the air when another bee came too close. And the apple slice wasn’t very long. If she was going to use it to extract that bee, she was going to have to get very, very close to the object of her empathy and her fear.

They say the definition of courage is not the absence of fear, but the willingness to act in the face of fear. Sadie was the epitome of courage. It took a few tries, and several cries of fear when the bee seemed to be moving toward her, but she got that bee out of the cup. It cleaned itself up and it flew away, to a life it would not have had if it were not for her bravery.

It may seem to be a small thing to save the life of a bee, but it is not. It is not small, because Sadie started the new year with a mitzvah. It is by no means a small thing that Sadie acted with compassion. It is not to be disparaged that Sadie acted in the face of her fear. And it should be noted that Sadie did all these things with no hope of reward. There was no gain at all that she imagined she might receive for doing this.

As Jews, we are told to be a light unto the nations. Thanks to Sadie, I was able to start the Jewish new year by watching a brave act of compassion by a young lady who I am so proud to say is a member of the Jewish people and our congregation.

Yasher koach, Sadie. May your light shine among us for many years to come.

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