"Dear God I'm Only Sixteen'
I TORAH PORTION I
BY ARNOLD WISPER
(In memory of Larry Urbach — A former Detroiter)
I know I don't deserve a second chance.
On the road of life, I've just begun to dance.
I've tried so hard to be one of the crowd.
I wanted my buddies to be real proud.
I tried to be hip; I tried to be cool.
I just didn't want to act like a fool.
When They wanted me to try an upper,
I guess it was like to "sing for my supper."
I got a high for the very first time.
It cost ten dollars, but they call it a dime.
Many kids do it, does that make it right?
I'm not sure, but it kept me up all night.
Next came cocaine, heroin and crack.
I took more and more, and didn't look back.
My Mom and Dad, they said I had changed.
Even I knew my life was rearranged.
I started to steal so I could buy more dope.
My ups and downs really made me lose hope.
I tried and I tried, but I could not stop.
I was always scared when I saw a cop.
One hot day when I was making a buy,
We were in an alley, me and this guy.
He took my cash and then pulled out a gun.
He shot me twice, and I was all done.
Suddenly, I came to, a cop was near.
It was very quiet, I couldn't hear.
I was wet with blood, but couldn't feel a thing.
If this is a dream, I want to play king.
They're coming with a sheet, "Hey, that's not for me."
They're covering my head, I cannot see.
I can't be dead, I am only sixteen.
"Hey, man, I've got a date, don't be so mean."
I'm supposed to grow up and live a great life.
I want kids of my own, and a wonderful wife.
I was put in a morgue, my folks came in.
They then realized, I could never win.
I looked in Mom's eyes, they were filled with tears.
Dad looked in shock, he had aged twenty years.
He said, "Why, oh why did this have to be?"
"The blame is mine, dear son, please forgive me."
The funeral was strange, I was on display.
Family and friends passed, on this nightmare day.
My buddies were crying, the girls touched my hand.
My Grandparents numb, as they cursed this land.
My sweet sisters couldn't believe their eyes.
"He was so good when younger, he seemed so wise."
I couldn't believe it either, I'm not dead.
I'll go back to school, with books still unread.
Please don't bury me, I want to laugh and run.
I love my family, they're so much fun.
Please give me one more chance, I'll stay clean!
Please, please, dear God, I'm only sixteen.
At Very Reasonable Prices Call For An Appointment
established 1919 ‘,
Lawrence M. Allan, Pres.
AWARDED CERTIFICATE BY GIA
IN GRADING AND EVALUATION
FRIDAY, JULY 20, 1990
30400 Telegraph Road
Birmingham, MI 48010
Who Is Exempt?
Continued from preceding page
and Reuven in this week's
portion, Matot-Maasey, is real-
ly Moses speaking today, ad-
dressing this subject.
This week's portion records
how the Jews cross the Jor-
dan. The tribes of Gad,
Reuven and half the tribe of
Menashe possess a great
multitude of cattle and good
grazing land. They petition
Moses with a special request.
"If you would grant us a favor,
let this land be given to us as
our permanent property, and
do not bring us across the Jor-
dan." [Numbers 32:5]
Moses' response is sharp.
"Why should your brothers go
out and fight while you stay
here? Why are you trying to
discourage the Israelites from
crossing over to the land that
God has given them? This is
the same thing your fathers
did when I sent them from
Kadesh Barnea to see the
land," [Numbers 32:6-8] a
reference to the sins of the
According to Rabbi Simcha
Zissel of Kelm, the petition of
these two and a half tribes
not to cross the Jordan be-
cause of cattle comes down to
a desire for money. It doesn't
take a great flight of the im-
agination to see the corre-
spondence to cattle and graz-
ing lands in those days to
seeking material comfort.
Why do Jews continue to live
outside of Israel, on the other
side of the Jordan, or the
other side of the Atlantic? Be-
cause they've found good
grazing lands for their cattle
and it's a shame to give it up.
But we could assume that
Moses would say today what
he said then: "Why should
your brothers go out and fight
while you stay here?"
Rabbi Yitzcha Arama, the
author of the Akedat Yitz-
chak, describes the tribes of
Gad and Reuven as practical
materialists who take the
easy way out. It's not that
they don't want to go to Israel;
they eventually do. But right
now the tribe, the needs of the
individual family and not the
nation, came first.
The Ohr Hachayim ap-
proaches the situation in its
simplest, most "religious"
terms, basing themselves on
Divine will: "The land which
God smote before the congre-
gation of Israel is a land for
cattle, and thy servants have
cattle." [32:4] .In other words,
what the tribes present Moses
with are the facts of the case:
right now this is the land that
God "smote" for us. It's good
land, we like it, our cattle like
it. And if God wants us
somewhere else, let Him take
us there, let Him smite that
land, too. And until then, this
is where we're going to stay.
In many ways, the Ohr
Haschayim's reading corre-
sponds to devout Jews
throughout the world who
claim there is no reason to
change the status quo. When
God is good and ready to re-
deem Israel completely, He'll
do it in His own time. But un-
til then, it's more important
to do nothing physical that in-
fluences His plan. Everything
depends on God, not on ar-
mies and tanks.
Gad and Reuven had forgot-
ten their history. They cannot
rest on their grazing laurels
while the rest of the nation
fights their wars for them.
When the Israelites reached
the Red Sea, chased by the
Egyptian hordes, they asked
Moses to pray to God. "Why
are you crying out to Me?"
God says to Moses. "Speak to
the Israelites and let them
start moving." [Exodus 14:15].
But the sea does not split un-
til Nachshon ben Amidav and
Caleb ben Yefuna jump in.
Similarly, when Moses tells
Gad and Reuven that they
have to bear arms and fight,
he's really pointing out that
God's promise to Israel is that
everyone has to be partners —
God with the nation, and the
nation with each other, shar-
ing in the responsibility.
In effect, whether we claim
economic or religious reasons
for letting us fight our wars,
both excuses are castigated by
the Torah. Perhaps there are
reasons why individuals are
not yet ready to come to
Israel, but it can't be because
they have good grazing land
in Nebraska, or even because
they claim total reliance on
the Divine Warrior of Israel.
Moses dismisses all these
reasons. But whatever claim
one has from exemption, we
must remember that while
Jews remain abroad, nine and
a half tribes are fighting and
risking their lives. And it
would be good to find out how
Moses would answer them.
Would he say: That's nice, you
belong there. Or would he
say: First help the rest of the
nation, and then take care of
your private grazing needs.
The fundamental challenge of
our times is to face the fact
that many of us live under the
illusions of Gad and Reuven.
Shabbat Shalom ❑