Ki Tetze Batmitzvah
by Izzy & Zara
We have waited a long time for our Bat Mitzvah, we have had a fantastic year celebrating with all our friends and sitting up there, listening to the wonderful D’var Torahs of our community friends and now it’s our turn to say… Rabbis, Rebetzins, honorary officers, family and friends, Shabbat Shalom!
As we have spent this year preparing for and moving towards our Bat Mitzvah which has fallen at the end of the academic year, it is interesting that with this weeks parasha the end of the Torah is in view and the common theme in the names of the remaining sidrot is that they all involve some sort of action. Ki teitzei, when you go out ki tavo, when you come in nitzavim standing up vayeilech and he went ha’azinu listening, with the final sedrah of the torah vzot habrachah which opens with Moshe’s words “Hashem mi sinai ba” G-d came from Sinai.
With these titles, the Torah is emphasizing that a person should never stand still. There are always greater and greater challenges to accept, higher peaks to scale, and deeper levels of learning to find, intellectually and spiritually. The Hebrew term for Jewish law is Halacha from the verb Halach to go, to keep moving forward. We Jews have always been on the move, both in body and mind, we have never stood still but have always struggled to push forward our knowledge and learning.
Although our Torah study and understanding is limited to our age, we would like to share a few messages from this week’s Parasha, that were especially meaningful for us, now, as we become Bat Mitzvah.
Noah’s ark is a bit of a theme in our family, right down to our pets (who also come in two’s) whom we are very fond of, and this week’s parashah discusses the preventing of suffering of animals. As there weren’t any pets in the Torah, the Torah is referring to working animals.
There are rules in the Torah to protect the animals. Shabbat wasn’t just a rest day for humans but for animals too. If an animal was struggling with a heavy load, it is our obligation to alleviate that weight, even if that animal is owned by our worst enemy. Arguments should be kept between people and extending an argument by mistreating our enemies animal is not allowed.
We are also told that when you plough a field, don’t do it with a big ox and small donkey, as the donkey will suffer, as it is the weaker. When you thresh a harvest, don’t muzzle your ox to prevent it from eating and leave the ox surrounded by the juicy grain. Obviously, these are activities that we are unlikely to do any time soon, but the example does explain that we can use animals for our own benefit, but animals must not be mistreated.
Another mitzvah which is taught to us, is the example of what to do when you find a mother bird sitting on its eggs, which you want to eat. The Torah tells us to shoo away the mother bird, and then take the eggs. The reward for doing this is a longer life.
But why should we send the mother bird away? and why should this bring us the reward of long life? It could be an example of the prevention of cruelty to an animal, it could be about encouraging us to be compassionate, or, it could be that we can take the eggs to eat, but allow the bird to go on living and keep making more. To kill both the mother and take the eggs would be like picking fresh fruit from a tree and then cutting down it down. We do this more often than we think, when we overfish the ocean, or use up anything more quickly than the earth can replace.
It is about letting the earth that Hashem gave us, renew and replenish.
Our Parasha, Ki Tetzei remarkably contains 74 of the 613 mitzvot in the Torah, the most mitzvot listed in a single Parasha.
We are taught that Hashem didn’t tell us the reward for any particular mitzvah, so instead of weighing up what we will get if we perform it, we should give the same dedication for each one, however big or small.
We are told however, the reward for the hardest and the easiest mitzvot. Honouring our parents is the hardest mitzvah, and the reward is the greatest, long life.
The easiest mitzvah is considered to be sending away the mother bird. As discussed earlier, the reward for this is also long life.
However, there are lots of good people who, despite honouring their parents and being kind to animals, die young, or have a hard life. How can this be if we believe that carrying out specifically these two mitzvot will give us the reward of long life?
Our sages tell us that the long life that Hashem is referring to, is not long life in this world, but long life in Olam Haba - the world to come. What this looks like, cannot be explained to us as it is like explaining music to a deaf person. Humans do not have the capacity to understand it.
We do know, that if we do a hard mitzvah with very little enthusiasm, little merit will be given, whereas undertaking an easy mitzvah with strong intent and enthusiasm, gives us greater merit. So this information, taken with the knowledge that we actually don’t know the rewards for any of the Mitzvot, encourages us to do each and every mitzvah, with the best intent and enthusiasm that we can find.
Our Batmitzvah learning has involved thinking about what is great and makes us proud about being a Jew. There are only about 14 million of us in this world of over 7 billion, 0.2%. The Torah shows us inspirational women and men, and recent history gives us even more Jews whose intellectual output has enriched the whole of Humanity.
From Albert Einstein and Sigmund Freud, Sir Robert Winston to Steven Spielberg, Barbara Streisand, Estee Lauder, Golda Meir, Anne Frank, and many more, Jews have given the world many things of great value, and many things of practical value too, such as, the Pillcam, Rummikub, Google, Facebook, Baskin Robbins, Levi Jeans, DKNY, and although sadly not heschered, Dunkin Donuts and have contributed to every sphere - education, science, technology, fashion, the arts, theatre, literature and music.
This link to education is also seen in this week’s parasha, where we learn about the rebellious child and his possible terrible future. The Torah tells us that as long as a person remains connected to the Torah, they have the potential to make amends, Jewish education, and the learning of Torah has a lasting impact on us whatever our connection to Judaism, be it through strict observancy, tradition or spiritual, we all seem to have a major thing in common - Judaism, and Jews, stress learning and analysis -- not just memorization of a set of beliefs, as key to who we are.
The stereotype of 'two Jews, three opinions' is deeply rooted in our culture. (or in our house, 4 Jewish kids, at least 12 opinions) We accept nothing at face value, and strive to know the 'why' and 'how' of every situation life throws our way. We value analysis, not just a given set of rules.
As we mentioned before, we amount to just 0.2% of the world’s population, yet to date, Jews have received about 23% of all Nobel prizes awarded. For things including the hyperdermic needle, the first polio vaccine drugs to fight leukaemia and Hepatitis B. The value placed on education is key.
We have been very lucky to have benefitted from the learning opportunities we get at Hasmonean, and from our community from Brownies, the Toddler, Intermediate, Childrens and Youth Services to Dvar Torah Club, Simcha and Lomedet Squad and the Kolot programme this year.
We are proud to be Jews, we are proud to be Bat Mitzvah and we are proud to be part of the Woodside Park community.