Hi everybody! Shabbat Shalom
Welcome everyone and thank you for coming especially those who have travelled from Israel, Birmingham and even…Hampstead Garden Suburb! Thank you to Rabbi Hackenbroh and Rabbi Yitzi for the service.
In the past year, I have been learning more about my Judaism with my Bat Mitzvah teacher and at woodside park shul bar/bat mitzvah classes with my friends. All this has given me the confidence to start my journey as a Jewish adult and has helped me to appreciate what it means to have a meaningful Bat Mitzvah celebration.
I know that we all have a big party but what are we even celebrating?
This week’s parsha/portion of the Torah has given me the insight and ability to understand and answer this question. We read in shul tomorrow, a portion called B’haalot’cha ‘When you arise’. B’haalot’cha refers to the mitzvah that Aaron was given the mitzvah of lighting the menorah in the mishkan (tabernacle). Rashi asked the question:
“Why is this section of the Torah which focuses on Aaron, being given this mitzvah, next to the section describing the Tribes of Israel making donations to the building of the Mishkan?”
He asks the question because there is a purpose and a reason for each word in the Torah and the place where something is written is no coincidence.
Aaron was disappointed that he and his tribe were unable to make a monetary donation to the building of the Mishkan. G-d says ‘Don’t worry as instead you will get the privilege of lighting up the Mishkan’. Aaron was given this position because he knew and had proved in his loyalty to G-d and Moshe, what it meant to be of service.
Immediately after this section, the torah goes on to talk about the Leviites being chosen to work in the Temple over the first born even though this honour was meant to go to them. This was because the first born did not live up to the position of role models. Therefore, the role was given to the Levites.
This is a lesson in leadership in Jewish tradition that teaches us that any position can be given to you but taken away easily if you don’t have any value for it and can also be earned if you do have that value. G-d values purity of heart above all else.
Free will is the highest value of humanity. Hashem gives us free will. This free will gives us the ability to make decisions between good and bad or right and wrong. The ability to make choices is a reason to celebrate. I take pride in follow in Jewish tradition and having a Bat Mitzvah by celebrating with you today.
My Hebrew name is Liba Leah. The root of Liba, translated as ‘beloved’ comes from the Hebrew word for heart, ‘lev’. The choices we make can affect the heartful feelings that we have and what we feel in life.
My name sake Leah, one of the four matriarchs is a real role model for me and what it means to be a Jewish woman. Leah was given the position of marrying the first born son of Isaac, Esau. However, she desperately wanted to marry Jacob, his more righteous twin brother. She prayed and prayed and prayed to Gd wishing to marry Jacob and only when g-d could hear the real desperation and see her goodness, G-d made it possible for her to marry Jacob. In her life, which is not described as the easiest of lives, Leah learns to set her sights higher than her circumstances. It's then that God demonstrates how He faithfully rewarded Leah and Jacob with six sons and a daughter. The tribes of Levi and Judah, the two tribes that were given senior position in Klal Yisrael. Like Aaron after her, Leah teaches us the power of a pure heart. In B'haalot'cha, Aaron is rewarded with the command to raise light in the lamps of the menorah, and the tribe of Levi was initiated into the service in the Mishkan.
Other role models in my life have been members of my family. My aunts, uncles, my cousins, (I have loads of them!) and especially Rafi who you will hear during Kabbalat shabbat- thank you Rafi. Thank you to my annoying uncle, Rabbi Ben for being not that annoying and helping me write this speech and flying over from Israel to attend this weekend. I know it’s because you love the religious occasions and simchas but really it’s a chance to party without your 6 kids! All my grandparents who live nearby and we spend so many Friday nights together. They have shown me what it means to be of service and how important being part of a community is. My saba and safta, Es and Hilary have been active members of Woodside Park shul and have taught me so much about Jewish communal values. My Grandpa and Grandma Rosemary and Robert, also active members at Norrice Lea Synagogue, have taught me the importance of education and having good morals. I am so grateful that my incredible great grandparents have been part of my life for so long. I am thinking of my Zaida Ray who my brother Ray is named for and of my great grandma Evelyn but I can’t believe how lucky I am to be able to wish my great grandma Marcia happy 97th birthday. I’m sorry she cannot make it here today from Birmingham- she loves a party! However, I am grateful to have my great grandfather Stanley here. From being a young man at 18, entering Bergan Belson Concentration Camp as one of the first British Soldiers to see the Nazi atrocities there, to being at my side in synagogue here today, is so special to me and I hope I can make him and all my family proud.
My parents have also encouraged me to share my opinions, be myself and accept my fascination with makeup and shopping. I cant thank you enough for all you’ve done for me. Ray, my brother, you make me laugh with your weird ways and I love it when we gang up on mum and dad together. I have tried to take in charitable Jewish values of Tzedakah that my family have taught me, by raising money for charities like Camp Simcha where I have participated in a Chanukah and Purim toy drive and fundraised for an 8 mile sponsored walk from the Whittington to Royal Free hospital delivering presents to children with life limiting illnesses.
I have from the inspirational ancestors we read about this week and the role models in my own family to want to continue in this tradition of hopefully becoming a strong woman. I am grateful to have this opportunity and this Bat Mitzvah to reflect on how I remain dedicated to learning and remembering the importance of my Jewish faith and my community.
‘Baatlotcha neerot,’ when you go up to light. We just lit the candles bringing in shabbat. And my hope is that these candles that we light within our hearts shall never go out.