Shabbat Shalom everyone
My name is Talia and I'm so pleased to be standing here before my mum, dad, brother, my Booba and Nana, Rabbi Hackenbroch and Rebbet-zin Gila and the rest of this wonderful community in order to deliver my D'var Torah
I've come such a long way to be here today and I would say that my journey has not been an obvious and straight forward one.
I was born in Japan …… and the Jewish community there is so very different. I didn't really feel that I was part of a community there…not compared to how I feel here at Woodside Park ….. Then I lived in Hong Kong for two years and it was there that I experienced for the first time what it was like to be part of a Jewish community …… but still something was missing.
My family returned to England in the summer of TWO THOUSAND AND TEN, nearly five years ago now, and since having joined the community at Woodside Park, I have learned what was missing in my earlier years. What I have come to realise is that apart from being among Jewish people…… it takes a lot to feel part of, and accepted, into a community…… Through my commitment to the chedar and Kolot programs, having recently started JFS and from my regular attendance on Shabbat at this Shul, I have learned what it means to be Jewish, and practice the laws of The Torah.
So now I stand before you all on this very special Shabbat and I wish to share with you some of the wonderful ideas that I have learned and been inspired by from this weeks’ inspirational double sedra.
This week's Torah portion teaches us “to love your neighbor like yourself” …… I think we all agree that love is a good thing …… but what does love really mean? “Love” that the Torah talks about is more than just a feeling. “Love” needs to be demonstrated through doing, …… like helping other people or sharing with them and trying not to be selfish. I have learned that by having a younger brother I have had to share and I've tried not to be selfish. I hope my brother can recognize my efforts.
The Torah is teaching us that we can make a better, more loving world by simply making ourselves into better, more loving people…… I am proud to say that from my own family, I have learned how to love and care for them, my friends and my community…… I am grateful to my wonderful mother who has always shown me love and respect, and how my fabulous father has always taught me how to love and cherish those around us. I'm very lucky to have my Nana and my Booba who I know love me very much (thank you both for the many sleepovers!) and they both in their own way continue to teach me how to love and appreciate my family, friends and things that are around me.
I sometimes feel that it is hard for people to share their things. I know that sometimes I have things that I really love and don't want to share (my mum would say this about my secret stash of sweets and treats that I DO LOVE and NEVER REALLY want to share). Perhaps we become attached to our possessions and feel that by sharing them we are losing something. At other times we are afraid that someone will damage something that we love a lot. But I have learned through my Jewish studies and with the help of Rebbet-zin Gila and my ever-growing knowledge of the Torah…… that everything in the world belongs to Hashem and he lent it to us. It is when we take this kind of attitude, that we feel less possessive of things and we can share them more easily as we actually come to appreciate them more.
Another aspect that we find in this week’s Sedra of Kedoshim, raises the following question: …… Isn't it enough just to love people in our hearts? Why should we have to actually do things to show that we love? Feelings in the heart are great, but they only go so far. When our love comes out in our actions, it grows even stronger and we feel that love even more. It is through this demonstration of showing our love that the one we love certainly feels it more. I would like to think that my parents know that I love them dearly…… despite the fact that sometimes I might not say it…… but I do my best to try to show it. When we demonstrate our love in this way this helps to make the world a more loving place. Now that I am BatMitzvah, I must make a conscious effort to actually bring the Torah teachings into a physical reality. My mum always says "actions speak louder than words" and until recently I never really did appreciate what that meant. But thanks mum….YOU ARE RIGHT…. and in the same way that the Torah teaches us, I have learned that “to love thy neighbor like yourself” really does bring about a more positive feeling in my heart, and that respecting people and things around me really does make me a happier person. Respect, being thoughtful and caring is something we can all do for ourselves quite easily by taking on board this simple yet powerful teaching from this week's Sedra.
We have just celebrated Pesach, and Shavuot is just around the corner. It is at this point I would like to thank Rabbi Gary Wayland for moving the bar and bat mitzvah girls and boys onto the Kolot and Netivot learning programs, from which I have learnt so much. The Kolot program has taught me about many powerful women who have been influential in the lives of Jewish people for many centuries. I have learned something very interesting from a very special woman who plays a major role in Jewish history. She is Ruth.
She is so special and significant that our sages have written a whole Megillah just about Ruth. This is the Megillah that we will be reading in the upcoming festival of Shavuot that celebrates the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people.
The story of Ruth celebrates the family and the way it continues through many generations …… Ruth shows her commitment to family life. There is a lot to be learned from Ruth. We can all learn from Ruth.
She says to her mother in law Naomi……
"Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you,".
"Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God."
Ruth's was a convert and her statement not only proves her loyalty to Naomi - but her desire to join Naomi's people - the Jewish people. Wanting to feel part of something bigger….
By joining the Woodside Park community on my BatMitzvah, together with being privileged to now be able to keep the laws of the Torah, I look forward with the guidance of my parents and my community to continue learning about what it means to be a Jewish woman. I am further provided to be part of a Jewish community, sharing common values and practicing the fundamental laws of the Torah. Thank you Rabbi Hackenroch for making me and my family so welcome.
I will always try my best to observe and keep the laws of the Torah - this is my commitment to being Jewish, my commitment to Hashem…. my becoming BATMITZVAH…… This is what BatMitzvah means to me….I am proud to be Jewish, and just like Ruth, accept the laws of the Torah and I will continue on my journey of learning and practicing the Mitzvoth.
Ruth was poor and a foreigner. She was prepared to leave her homeland to live with Naomi in an unknown land. She was brave and scared, but she listened to the advice of an older, wiser woman, as I would of my own mother I hope. In turn, Naomi was rewarded by Ruth's unquestionable loyalty.
The message I learn from Ruth’s loyalty is courage, understanding and strength in the face of adversity when she might have felt she only had few choices over the direction of her future. It is these difficult times that teach, guide and help us develop into special people by making the right choices. NOW, as a BatMitzvah, I am responsible for my own choices and hopefully I can learn from Ruth …… and when faced with challenging times and when things are not straightforward, I will have the faith and strength of character to make the right choices.
In the same way Ruth started out on her journey in Judaism – I am now standing on the same threshold, at the start and at the beginning of my own personal journey as a responsible member of the Jewish people, and I am looking forward with excitement yet also with some anxiety at what lies ahead of me....and like Ruth when she lost everything and returned to Israel with Naomi, both of them poor widows – I know now that the right choices can make you into an amazing person who can make huge differences in the world …… not just for oneself, but also for the benefit of the whole Jewish nation. Ruth merited being the grandmother of King David and Moshiach destined to be born from that same ancestry.
So I look forward to continuing my journey with the amazing head start that I have been fortunate enough to have been given by my parents …… and as a BatMitzvah - becoming responsible for my choices - and making everyone around me, especially my community and family, proud of my achievements.
Thank you for listening to me today. I hope that you leave here having learned something from me – and if so, then I have achieved what I set out to achieve and that is to be an inspiration to others, and help my community, friends and family develop our relationship with Hashem.