Rabbi, Rebbitsen, family and friends. Shabbat Shalom and welcome to my Bat Mitzvah!
The Parsha we’ve been reading in Shul today is called Eikev, in the book of Devarim, Deutronomy. Eikev- what does the word Eikev mean?
There are multiple translations of the word Eikev.
One of them is the root word, meaning heel, which we know from the name Yaakov, Jacob. He grabbed onto Eisav’s heel when he was born- hence his name.
The Parsha begins with; “VeHaya Eikev Tishme’un et HaMishpatim Ha’Eleh.”
And it will be BECAUSE of your listening to these laws…THEN G-d will give you all sorts of rewards. According to Rashi, the word Eikev here, instead of just meaning BECAUSE, translates that IF you listen and follow, even the little commandments, that you would otherwise trample with your heel, THEN G-d will reward you.
The Parsha continues with this dominant theme of how if you follow in G-d’s ways and obey His ordnances, He will bless you with countless blessings, including numerous offspring, fertile land, healthy cattle and protection from your enemies. However, if you TURN from His ways, then you will be punished severely, and not receive any of His kindnesses.
This Parsha highlights how when before the people of Israel entered the land of Israel, Moshe was giving them instructions on how to lead their life without him as their role model. He warns the Bnei Yisrael about a possible trap that they shouldn’t fall into.
IF you follow in G-d’s ways, and G-d rewards you, you might start to believe that all of these good things are of your own making.
“Kochi Ve’Otzem Yadi Asah Li Et Ha’Chayal Hazeh” MY own strength and the might of My own hand has made for me all of this wealth. It is precisely at that point that you must remember G-d, because if you forget Him, you will be lost.
Moshe reminds them how they are a Stiff-necked People, “Am K’shei Oref”, mentioning this term more than once, to emphasise how stubborn they have been in the 40 years in the desert. How G-d fed them, clothed them and performed miracles for them and they still failed to show gratitude towards their saviour.
Now, as a Bat-Mitzvah, this is a life lesson- this concept of gratitude. As a child, we expect other people to look after us and give us what we need without a second thought. Now that I am twelve years old, in the eyes of Judaism, I am a woman, meaning I need to take responsibility for my own actions and not rely on other people.
This does not mean that I am fully independent, without needing help from anyone. Everybody needs help from others. Two heads are always better than one. But, now it is my responsibility to recognise other people’s kindnesses- “Hakarat Hatov.” To show gratitude towards all the people who have helped me, shown me right from wrong, picked me up when I was down, shown me kindness when I didn’t deserve it.
There are many ways to show gratitude. One way would be just to say “Thank you”, as we can also see from this week’s Parsha, when it talks about the concept of Birkat Hamazon, Grace after meals. We thank G-d for our meal, as it says “Ve’Achalta, Ve’Savata U’Berachta”. You shall eat, you shall be satisfied- and you shall bless.
Another way of showing gratitude is by doing actions. For example, the best way to thank your parents for giving you the essential skill of proper manners, is to speak politely to people and show them respect.
These actions speak louder than words. The same is true with G-d. We can show our gratitude for His many gifts by following in His ways.
One of His many commandments is to put a Mezuzah on our doorposts. This serves as protection, just as it did during our time in Egypt when we put the blood of the Korban Pesach (the pascal lamb) on our doorposts, so that G-d knew to pass over our hoses during the plague of the killing of the firstborn. The mezuzah serves another purpose, as well. It reminds us, with the special verses of the Shema, inside the mezuzah, of G-d’s oneness, and how He is with us whilst in our homes and even as we leave our homes.
By putting our mezuzahs in our homes, we are showing gratitude to Hashem and He is showing gratitude to us.
I would like to take this opportunity to show MY gratitude to my wonderful parents - for making my Bat Mitzvah possible, for giving me everything I could possibly need and more and for helping me to become a daughter of Mitzvahs.
I intend to show my continuing dedication to Judaism by keeping as many mitzvot as possible and by continuing with my Jewish education.
I hope that my actions continue to serve as gratitude to Hashem and to all of you.
Thank you and Shabbat Shalom.