Shabbat Shalom everyone
Thank you for joining me at my Bat Mitzvah.
I have been learning with my wonderful Batmitzvah teacher Ora Goldberg for the past 6 months and have had the opportunity to discuss many aspects of Jewish life on my journey to becoming a Jewish woman.
The theme for my Divar Torah became immediately obvious when I realised that I would be celebrating my bat mitzvah on Shabbat Chanukah and also Rosh Chodesh.
I am literally surrounded by candles and light, and I wanted to use this opportunity to learn about and shed light on the significance of the different lights that this important time brings with it.
Last night we lit the Shabbat candles. This evening, as Shabbat departs we will be lighting the Havdalah candle to signify the separation between the holiness of Shabbat and the mundane of the week, and then we will light the 7th candle on the menorah. An abundance of candles.
And Rosh Chodesh is the head of the Jewish month which revolves around the cycle of the moon, another source of powerful light.
Candles play a big role in Judaism because there is something more spiritual than physical about them.
When one spreads a physical substance that thing becomes less. When you spread something spiritual it expands and grows. The more money you spend, the less you have. The more petrol you use, the emptier your tank gets. But, when you use your wisdom to teach, the students learn and you become wiser. If you share your love with someone else the person receives love and you become more loving. When you give a spiritual gift, the recipient gains and you lose nothing.
This is the spiritual quality that candles have. When you use one candle or flame to light another, the original candle remains bright, it’s light does not become less when it is shared. In fact, the 2 candles together make each other and their surroundings brighter.
The more goodness we spread, the more goodness we have. There is an endless amount of light in our soul which never runs out. With this idea in mind I wanted to shed some light on the first candles of this weekend - THE SHABBAT CANDLES.
Every erev Shabbat it is a woman’s mitzvah to light the candles which signify the start of Shabbat. At the time of lighting she says a Bracha and then has a moment for prayer and connection; A chance to reflect on the week and its blessings and also a chance to reflect on any challenges and to direct them to Hashem.
The first Torah reference to these candles is in the home of our foremothers. As well as the fact that a cloud hovered over their tent representing Hashem’s protection, their candles stayed alight from week to week.
The secret to this miracle was not the type of candles they used, but rather their intentions. They took this mitzva and injected it with holiness and unique feminine power, and elevated this seemingly simple task from the ordinary to the extraordinary.
Through the Shabbat candles I learn that this mitzvah and this power belong to every Jewish woman - and now to me as well!
The next important lights of this weekend are the lights of Chanukah.
As some background, In the second century BCE, the Holy Land was ruled by the Syrian-Greeks who tried to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs, instead of mitzvot and belief in G‑d.
Against all odds, a small band of faithful but poorly armed Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee, defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of Hashem.
When they tried to light the Temple's Menorah, they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks. Miraculously, they lit the menorah and the one-day supply of oil lasted for eight whole days - until new oil could be prepared, under conditions of ritual purity.
To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. On Chanukah the idea is to look at the flames of the menorah, but not gain from the light for the sake of any activities, like reading.
There is something MAGICALabout flames that draws us to stare at them. Looking at them has a way of INSPIRINGand ELEVATINGus. Using them for other activities would distract us and detract from the magic. Just looking at the candles allows the magic to enter us. And that’s not something we should just keep to ourselves.
On Chanukah we share that light by publicising the mitzvah and lighting our menorah in a place that is visible to passers-by as well as to the family. By sharing the light, we become the light.
The mitzvah of lighting is actually given to ‘Ner Ish Ubeito’, a candle for every man and his home. But now maybe we can understand this in a slightly different way.
The mitzvah is to see the candle, but even more than that, the mitzvah is to see Ish- the man, the person; To see ourselves. Ubeito- and his home. To see ourselves and our homes and our families. It is an opportunity to recognise and appreciate our blessings, and to feel gratitude for all the miracles.
From the Chanukah candles, I learn to shine a light, on the things I already have, and to feel grateful.
The 3rd light that I wanted to gain insight into, and share, is the light of Rosh Chodesh.
Rosh Chodesh is the monthly celebration of the moon. There are numerous connections between this special day and women and it is considered specifically a woman’s holiday. The Talmud compares the light of the moon to women and feminine energy, and one of the reasons this day is given as a gift to women, is as a reward for not having participated in the sin of the golden calf, by refusing to contribute their jewellery.
From this light, I have learned that while the moon radiates a gentler and less bright light than the sun,
it is this type of feminine light, that will eventually bring the Mashiach and ultimate redemption.
The 4th light of the weekend will take place after Shabbat with Havdalah and I hope to share some thoughts on that light when we partake in the mitzvah.
It also felt important to me to draw a lesson from the Parsha of this week and to find a message of light there as well.
Parshat Mikeitz tells the story of Joseph imprisoned with no hope of freedom. Things could not have been darker, but in a miraculous change of fortune, Joseph is asked to interpret pharaohs dream. Through his interpretation, he gives Pharaoh some very useful advice which earns him, not only freedom from jail, but a prestigious role in the king’s court and great influence and respect. What starts off as a story of hopeless darknessbecomes a situation of miraculous light.
From this story I have learned that Hashem’s salvation comes in the blink of an eye and that in every dark situation there is the potential for hope and light.
Now that I am officially considered a woman, I look forward to radiating my own unique light and playing a meaningful role as part of the Jewish nation.
Before I finish, I would like to thank Ora for the inspirational lessons I’ve enjoyed so much.
I would also like to thank all of my friends and family who have come from near and far to help us celebrate.
Finally, I would like to thank my little brother Ethan and my parents for their love and support. Mum and Dad, you have shown me that, although the party tonight will be lots of fun, my bat mitzvah is really the start of a new journey. My journey into Jewish life as I become a young Jewish woman.
I look forward to sharing that journey with my friends, family and the Woodside Park community.
Thank you for listening, and Shabbat shalom!