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Metzorah Batmitzvah

D'var Torah

by Mia
Batmitzvah Dvar Torah
Batmitzvah Dvar Torah
Batmitzvah Dvar Torah
Batmitzvah Dvar Torah

Shabbat Shalom,

 

I am very honoured to be standing here as Batmitzvah on this special Shabbat.

 

Today is Shabbat HaGadol – the Shabbat before Pesach. The Parasha read from the Torah this morning was Parashat Metsora. Metsora is the continuation of last week’s Parasha Tazria, which talked about diseases, isolation and lockdown – perhaps the Torah’s version of Covid-19! I’m sure no one wants to be reminded of that time, so I decided to focus my Dvar Torah on Pesach, as this special Chag begins in just 2 days’ time, on Monday night.

 

Next week a special Torah portion is read, from the Parasha Ki Tisa ,as it is the Shabbat of Chol HaMoed Pesach. I would like to share a few words with you about what I have learnt about this Parasha.

 

Moshe was angry and shaken by the incident of the Golden Calf, and there is an interaction between G-d and Moshe, immediately after. Moshe begs G-d for guidance on what he should do. G-d tells Moshe to go and stand by a rock and promises to place him B’Nikrat HaTsur – in the cleft of the rock.

 

In the next few verses, Moshe receives the announcement of the 13 attributes of mercy - in other words, thirteen ways God is gracious and kind, followed by a repetition of the promise that God will safely deliver the people to the promised land.  These attributes should be seen as a gift of a powerful prayer that can reassure us. This list of Attributes doesn’t just tell us all the ways that God is merciful to his people; it’s also telling us how we can be kind to ourselves.

 

Pesach falls in the month of Nisan which is the first month of the Jewish year. The first mitzvah given to the Jewish people once they were freed from slavery and began their journey through the desert, was that of Rosh Chodesh – celebrating and honouring a new moon, a new month.

 

Having my Batmitzvah in the month of Nisan is not only a way to remember and mark this new beginning for the Jewish people, but also it is a new beginning for me as Batmitzvah and my journey into Jewish adulthood.

 

Becoming Batmitzvah means I am now at the age where I can take on more responsibilities and think more deeply about the consequences of my actions.

   

Looking into depth at the meaning behind why we celebrate Pesach, has taught me to value freedom, justice and responsibilities.

 

In my family we always enjoy seder nights and reading the Hagaddah together with my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandmas. Thanks to my younger cousins Holly and Ethan, I’ve managed to get away without singing the Ma Nishtana on my own, however it is always fun to search for the afikomen and win the chocolates of course!

 

But what is the real meaning behind marking this Chag? The main reason of course, is celebrating the freedom of the Jewish people from slavery, and importantly, remembering what they went through  - in order to really appreciate the meaning of freedom.

 

The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks explained  “the journey from slavery to freedom is one we need to travel in every generation”. That is why we have the seder every year, to tell the story of what it was like to be a slave and what it felt like to go free.”

ְThe Haggadah reminds us ”Be’chol dor va’dor chayav adam lirot et atzmo ke’ilu hu yatzah mi Mitzrayim”

“In every generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as though we personally came out of Egypt,”

 

I do not take for granted the feeling of freedom I experience in my life every day. A freedom to think, a freedom to be, a freedom to express my views and to enjoy life. My mum and dad and my grandparents always encourage me to fight for what is right. My grandfather, who I called Pa, always taught Amelie and I to trust our instincts and he said that we could achieve anything we wanted in our lives. Barriers are only there to be knocked down. I will always keep this with me.  

 

We can all get caught up with the small worries we have in every day life – will we be late for the netball match, how well did we do in that maths test, will our parents make us eat those vegetables – but these really are such privileges.

 

We know not everyone is this fortunate and Pesach reminds us that it is our responsibility to help people who are suffering and persecuted throughout the world to find freedom. We must always remember that we were once slaves in Egypt, so it is our responsibility to help others in similar situations. We must never stand by and we must take action.

 

Freedom and justice is sadly never guaranteed, and our fight is still continuing. Even when we were freed from slavery in Egypt, we did not go into a state of certainty. We crossed the sea and found ourselves in the wilderness, still in a state of incompletion. In other words, it takes constant effort to fight for and feel freedom, and with freedom, comes responsibility.  

 

This year I was lucky enough to have two really incredible trips with close friends, which opened my eyes to some of the struggles people have faced. In the summer I visited Amsterdam and learnt about Anne Frank’s story. A girl who was the same age as me and demonstrated so much strength and resilience. In December I visited New York and we went to see the Statue of Liberty – a symbol of hope to so many immigrants who were arriving in America, escaping difficult situations. It also made me think about my own great-great-grandparents and the feeling of hope they must have had arriving in the UK, having been forced to leave their homes due to war and conflicts. So many of our ancestors fought to live in a democracy where everyone was considered equal.

 

It is impossible not to draw devastating parallels with the conflict in Israel and the 134 hostages that are still being held.  

 

Those innocent people had their freedom removed without warning in such a shocking way and it is important we all do what we can to fight for justice and freedom.

 

For this reason, I decided to raise money to a cause that supported so many people in need. I chose to do something that utilises one of my skills – baking. I often bake with my Grandma Avril and the two of us spend hours and hours together making cakes. I set up my own crepe and cake stand last week and sold them to family and friends in order to raise money for a charity called ‘United Hatzalah’. Thank you to everyone who came to support me and help me raise over £600.

 

United Hatzalah is an emergency medical service which is run by volunteers and is available to all people - regardless of race, religion or national origin. I pray for the freedom of the hostages and of innocent people on both sides of this conflict.

 

 

As we know we are about to begin Pesach where we eat leavened bread to remind us of the lack of time the people had to leave Egypt.  It also represents the importance of remembering what is truly important in life and a reminder not to overinflate ourselves or the small things in life. We must always think about justice and kindness to those around us. Our actions and behaviour count for so much and it is important to always show empathy and consideration of others and generally to flatten our ego.

 

I pride myself in having a very strong sense of fairness and I have never been afraid to stand up to injustices and go against the crowd if I think someone is being unfair. I strive to be a better person every day. Both in my thoughts and in my actions. I am constantly trying to reach my potential and recognise when I make mistakes and learn to work harder.

 

Sport is my passion, especially netball, lacrosse, trampolining and gymnastics and I try to be a strong team player and to always support my teammates. There is not a day when I am not playing in a tournament, a competition, or a training session and I never take for granted that I have the freedom to do what I love and enjoy. I can’t imagine my life without my sport. It makes me feel so happy and free but the true fun comes with working together with my friends and wider team.  

 

I will try to use some of the attributes I learnt about from the Parasha, to reassure myself when life doesn’t always go to plan, we can work together, be resilient and if we have to, stand up for what is right. We must always remain positive and believe we can achieve – this is something I see in my Great Grandma Marie, who sadly can’t be here today. At 101 years old has always shown me that positivity, kindness and support can go a long way.

 

Thank you for listening to my Dvar Torah. I have certainly learnt a great deal about our responsibilities as Jewish people. I have realised that as a young person, reading the stories in the Torah can sometimes feel like a world away, but the reality is that it is critical to learn from the Torah and from History and relate aspects back to our lives today.

Our human right for freedom will always remain and I have learnt that our liberty can never be taken for granted. Every innocent adult and child deserves the right to freedom – to be able to go where they want to go and think how they want think. We cannot be bystanders and we must call out injustices and stand up for fairness and kindness. I promise to always do this in my future as a Batmitzvah and hope to always make my family and friends proud.

 

I’d now like to say the Batmitzvah Prayer

אָבִינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַיִם הִנְנִי עוֹמֶדֶת בַּיּוֹם הַמְּיֻחָד הַזֶּה שֶׁל בַּת מִצְוָה שֶׁלִּי כְּדֵי לָתֵת שֶׁבַח וְהוֹדָיָה לְךָ עַל כֹּל הַבְּרָכוֹת שֶׁנָּתַתָּ לִי וּלְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת חַיַּי  מֵהַיּוֹם לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת כֹּל דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָתְךָ בָּאַהֲבָה

 

Aveenoo ‘sh-basha-mayim’, hinaynee omedet, bayom ‘ham-yoo-chad’ hazeh, shel bat-mitzvah sheli, k-day latet shevach, ve-hoh-da-yah lecha, al kol ha-brachot, shenatat lee, oo-le-kadaysh, et cha-yai, me-hayom, la-asot et kol divray ‘tora-techa’, b-ah-havah.

Our father, behold, I stand before you on my Batmitzvah to thank you for all the blessings that you have given me. I promise you to devote myself, from this day forward, to my responsibilities.

 

I want to thank you for my loving parents, grandparents, family and friends and pray that the future will bring only good health, happiness and peace to us all, to the house of Israel and all mankind. Amen.

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