Pop Parsha: Kris Krossed Bamidbar

kris krossWhen a person grows up, their taste in music can change. I remember as child making fun of my father for liking these old men called “the Beatles.” I eventually fell in love with their music, but as a twelve year old how could Paul, John, George, and Ringo compete with Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac, better known as Kriss Kross? This two-person boy rap group hit the scene in 1992 with a hit album titled Totally Krossed Out. The album contained their most famous song, “Jump, which got bar mitzvah parties literally jumping. Chris Kelly (Mac Daddy) and Chris Smith (Daddy Mac) became instant childhood stars. But with that came all the pressures of fame, money, and trying to wear their clothes backwards. Ah, yes the look that never caught on but still manages to pop up at every ’90s theme party. Less than a week ago Kelly passed away. His legacy remains in his childhood days and the trials that went along with it.
Working as a child, regardless of paycheck amount, cannot be an easy thing to overcome. Time after time we hear of childhood stars rebelling, struggling with life after fame, and even dying at an early age. Kelly, 34, was best known as a child star rapper and was unrecognizable by his 30s. But he is not the only one who has died young or battled childhood stardom and the rapid fading of their dreams.
In this week’s parsha, Bamidbar, we see early on in Chapter One men between the ages of twenty and sixty join the Tzava, what we today use as the word for Army. Rebbe Nachman discusses the verse, “All Jews must be ready to wage war for God. They can do so only when they are united in their goal. Thus, Moses counted the Jews in the desert who were ready to fight for God.” Rebbe Nachman has three points of focus on. The first is that these men are doing God’s work. Second, there must be a united goal. And third, these men must be ready to fight.
This got me thinking about childhood stars. While few, if any, are doing God’s work (not sure we can define that anyway), they do in some way they feel larger than life. With other children screaming for their autographs and adults asking them for money, they must feel like they can take on the world. But without a united support team, ready to handle the success and failure of childhood stardom, how ready or prepared can a child be for such a large scale responsibility? Notice the Torah does not include men, meaning thriteen and older; rather twenty years and up. The Torah teaches us that even though we might think and feel we are ready for challenges it is important to gain experience and wisdom before we act. Thirteen year old Jews begin to serve God, but not until twenty can they fully comprehend, and are physically ready to serve the people.
It is a shame to lose one half of one of my favorite childhood groups. I knew all the words to “Jump” when I was younger, and probably still do. But if we can learn from this week’s parsha and the life of Chris Kelly, it is that maybe we should not always “jump” in until we can be prepared to control the outcome as best as possible.
(Photo: Petalum)