Shabbat shalom Rabbi Hackenbroch, Mum, Dad, Family and Friends and Chag sameach to everybody also!
My Bat mitzvah falls on Shabbat Chanukah.
On Chanukah, we celebrate the unlikely and miraculous victory of the highly outnumbered Jews over the Greeks, and the beginning of a happier time in Jewish history. The word Chanukah itself is an acronym, meaning 'they rested on the 25th Kislev' - the word chanu means they rested and the numerical value of kaf is 20 and hey is 5.
Apart from this, however, the word 'Chanukah' has two meanings; Dedication and education.
Together, both Dedication and education have played a major role in my becoming Bat Mitzvah.
The first of these, dedication, refers to the fact that during these days the Jewish people began to rededicate and clean the beit hamikdash of the idols that the Greeks had placed there. As part of this, one of their main tasks was to relight the Menorah. However, they couldn't find enough oil for 8 days, only 1. This did not leave enough time for more oil to be brought to the Temple. But a miracle occurred and the oil lasted for eight days.
This is my own personal day of rededication, but it is also shared with my ancestors and many jews who are celebrating Chanukah today. On this day, we celebrate and remember rededicating, clearing and purifying the temple. We also rededicate ourselves to Hashem, and purify and clear ourselves of sin. Today, the day of my bat mitzvah, I enter a completely new stage of dedication, as I become responsible for keeping all the mitzvot in the torah and becoming a valued member of the jewish community.
The second meaning behind the word Chanukah is chinuch, meaning education, which is greatly valued both in Judaism and within my family.
This relates to the lesson that the special mitzvah of Chanukah - to light candles - teaches us. The commandment is 'ner ish ubeito' which means that the leader of each household should light the Chanukah candles at home with their family.
This idea shows us the importance Judaism places in instilling Jewish values, both in the home and as part of the family.
More than the synagogue, the home is central to Jewish religious practice. As well as lighting the menorah candles at home for Chanukah, we light candles every Friday evening to usher in Shabbat.
The home is also the central setting for conducting the Passover, and for festive meals on Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur. I treasure and greatly value the time I spend with my family on these festivals.
Also, within my own family I have learnt about the dedication of Linda Pein, my late grandmother. She stood up for what she believed in, just like the Jews did when they fought the Greeks. She created a Womens' group called the 35's in Liverpool in the late sixties, to campaign publicly for the rights of Jews in Russia to emigrate to Israel. Many of these Jews were followed by secret police officers, and harassed and put in prison by the government.
Similar to the Maccabees, who were the miniscule Jewish army fighting against an enormous amount of Greek soldiers; these small groups of Jewish women helped defeat the might of the powerful Soviet Russian empire, the sixth largest country on earth, except without the force of arms. Because of what my late Grandmother and thousands of other Jewish women did, Jews in Russia are now free to leave the country if they wish to, and teach and learn Jewish cultures and traditions there.
As I now become bat mitzvah, I hope to follow in the footsteps of my wonderful family and Jewish heritage and create another link in the Jewish chain.
I would like to thank the people who have helped me reach this point in my life: my parents who have inspired me to be self reliant and shown me the value of education. My grandparents, aunts and uncles who are always there for me, the Woodside park cheder where I have learned about my Jewish heritage, Elisheva Birnbaum for helping me with my Dvar Torah, and my friends and family, who are here today, and who have given me the support and confidence to enter into this next stage of my life.