Friday, June 10, 2011


OCCSP Family Program - Los Angeles
By Yaki Margulies

Do we earn our roles in life, or are we born into them? And if we’re born into certain roles that we don’t want, how do we cope with the burden of responsibility? These were the questions at the heart of the show, “I Count You,” performed at the Newport Beach Hyatt in Southern California on May 28th, 2011, by Deanna Neil and myself.

The Torah portion was Bamidbar, a sometimes dry account about the creation of the census and the designation of camping and marching formations for the Twelve Tribes of Israel as they continued on their forty-year journey through the desert. Not incredibly exciting, especially for a young audience. But our Shabbat service instead focused on the Levites replacing the Hebrew firstborn as curators of the Mishkan, a special honor bestowed upon them by God for staying faithful during the Golden Calf incident at Mount Sinai.

We structured the show as a playful repartee between two characters, a firstborn Hebrew (played by Deanna) losing the esteemed job of handling holy objects, and a Levite (me), gaining this new privilege and responsibility – illustrating the shifting of power and the journey our flawed characters had to take in order to grow into their new roles. We bantered, led the kids in discussions, and jammed on a few songs (modified versions of the Beatles’ “All Together Now” and an old gospel tune, “Workin’ on the Building”).

By the end, the firstborn realized that there were consequences for every action and that, sometimes, accepting the role you’ve been given isn’t so bad. The Levite learned that everyone is important, regardless of official job title, and that leaders must lead with righteousness and compassion. And hopefully, the audience learned something, too.

We had a lot of fun working on the show and performing it. The children (maybe that’s not the correct term; many were budding adults) also seemed to engage in the message, sharing their experiences as students, siblings, friends, and other roles they have earned or been given in life. But everyone in the room, adult or child alike, could relate to the theme of accepting responsibility and working hard in the positions we inhabit. Like our ancestors in the Torah, we must strive to do our best and be our best. And in that way, we can find favor and grace – signs of a true leader.

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