Good Shabbos and Shabbat Shalom everyone
Today is my Bat Mitzvah.
But what does that actually mean?
Bat Mitzvah means daughter of the commandments. From today, I am responsible for how I keep the mitzvot and how I behave.
I have become my own person. Prior to reaching my Bat Mitzvah, my parents were liable for my actions. Jewish tradition recognises that I can now differentiate between right and wrong and I don’t need to rely on them to make my choices. But actually,…….. Mum and Dad,……. I probably do still need to rely on you…….. sometimes…......maybe most times?
Hopefully, though, I will make all the right choices and as I start this journey through adult life my reliance on you will diminish.
My D’var Torah is about today’s sedra, Chukat, which tells us how, as Jews, we should conduct ourselves.
Our Rabbi's tell us that Aharon's death was seen by the people with the disappearance of the cloud that protected them, while they were travelling in the desert. It was in the merit of Aharon that the cloud protected us. Aharon held the Jewish people together.
The Mishneh states in Ethics of our Fathers that Aharon "loved peace and pursued it, loved people and brought them near to the Torah." He reached out to people with a boundless, embracing love, and they could not help but respond. In this way, Aharon drew people to the Torah and inspired them to do teshuvah - repentance.
When this great pursuer and paragon of peace passed away, the harmony among the Jewish people began to erode and deteriorate. Arguments and disputes erupted here and there. People began to quarrel. The Clouds of Glory departed and the Jewish people became vulnerable to attacks by other nations.
In addition, when Aharon's sister, Miriam, died at the age of 126 years old, the water that was given to the children of Israel ceased.
Why was Miriam so special?
As the Torah mentions in the book of Shemot, she was a very brave woman, standing up for what she believed in, even as a child. She was the reason that her parents remarried after they had separated during the period that Pharaoh had ordered all Jewish, male children to be killed.
Amram, Miriam's father, was the spiritual leader of Israel and he publicly divorced his wife, setting an example for all Jews to follow. Subsequently all the Jewish men separated from their wives. But his little daughter Miriam, who was just six years old, argued with him.
"Your decision is harsher than that of Pharaoh's decree. While Pharaoh's decree affects only male children, you are preventing the birth of both boys and girls. Moreover, I am sure that Pharaoh's laws will soon be withdrawn while your decree will endure!"
Amram acknowledged the force of her arguments and remarried his wife, Yocheved, so that all Bnai Yisrael could witness the event.
Another example of her unique qualities is evident when she looked after her brother, Moshe, when he was in the river. As a result of this deed, the Jews would have water to drink whilst they were in the desert.
Moshe, our teacher, was the source of manna which was the third pillar of sustenance.
These three leaders of Israel were proof that the maintenance of our people is not determined by physical power, but rather by moral and spiritual strength. These three siblings represented the necessary qualities to fulfil our purpose in life.
The prophet Micha, talks about man's obligation in life.
“ What does Hashem ask of you? To act justly, to love doing kindness, and to walk in quiet modesty with your G-d."
Hashem requires three things - acting justly, loving to act with kindness and conducting oneself modestly, not looking to bring unnecessary attention to oneself. This is the moral responsibility and duty of a Jew. We must focus our attention on these attributes, seeking to uphold these traits.
Rabbi Hirsch, suggests that the leadership of Moshe, Aharon and Miriam respectively, characterized these three qualities. Mishpat, living one's life justly in accordance with the laws of the Torah, represented Moshe's mission in life. Aharon exemplified chesed, inclining one's whole character to perform kindness to others. Tzinuit, the essential character of the Jewish woman, reached its greatest heights in the character and activities of Miriam.
Rabbi Hirsch goes on to explain that the three physical gifts of which benefited Klal Yisroel, paralleled the moral gifts that were reflected by their respective leader's characteristics. Tzinuit, modesty, is the quiet, fundamental treasure which forms the foundation of the way we should conduct ourselves. We should be modest in the way we dress as well as in the way we speak. Chesed, kindness, is physically reflected by the protective cloud of Aharon and spiritually it is a trait that we should nurture during our lives. Mishpat, justice, is the very bread from Heaven, the manna, which is essential so that man will continue and that Jews from all around the world will prosper.
Our three greatest leaders left their legacies behind for future generations.
My Hebrew name is Miriam and therefore it is very special that my name appears in this week's sedra and I have been given the opportunity to speak about the prophetess Miriam in my Bat Mitzvah D’var Torah. I hope to emulate the qualities of modesty that I have learnt from Miriam throughout my life in everything that I do.
It is also very significant that Moses is mentioned, as this was the Hebrew name of my recently deceased Zeida.
Moses is described in the Torah as being the humblest of all men who was an inspirational leader. As was my Zeida, who was a very kind and caring person who was able through his wonderful sense of humour and comical tales to reach out to everybody and anybody who met him. I would like to thank him for encouraging, and motivating me to have a Bat Mitzvah even though, unfortunately he is unable to celebrate my special day.
I would like to thank my exceptional parents and my sister, Charlotte for all your support and TLC, and for always being there for me. I would also especially like to thank Shlomit Levin for helping me to write my D’var Torah and of course, all my family and friends for being here today to share my Simcha with me. Good Shabbos and Shabbat Shalom!