My name is Olivia and my Hebrew name is Dinah. Dinah was the daughter of Yacob and a sister to the 12 tribes. I am not going to talk to you today about Dinah as she does not appear in my Shabbat Sedra. But IU am excited to share with you an idea that I have really enjoyed learning about during my journey leading up to my Bat Mitzvah.
I have learned about many different mitzvoth and character building traits. I came across inspirational patriarchs and matriarchs. They are now true role models in my life and I have learned what it means to become a bat mitzvah. It is an adult commanded in the laws of our Torah with responsibility towards my self and others.
Learning to understand the greater picture and having awareness of others.
In this weeks Sedra – we learn the mitzvah of keeping Kosher. The Torah speaks in very precise language about the signs we are to look out for when deciding whether or not an animal or a fish is kosher.
Alongside Shabbat, Kashruth – which is the mitzvah given to us that explains all the laws of what we can and cannot eat, is one of the most important commandments in the Torah.
Keeping Kosher definitely also has its health benefits. Not mixing meat and milk helps our digestion system ad many other factors connected to our medical health.
Yet we learn from the Arbarbanel a great Rabbi who lived in the 15th century that the Torah did not come to take the place of a medical handbook. We don’t keep kosher because of health reasons but we do it to protect our spiritual soul to keep it pure and holy.
To be able to keep this commandment I need to be mindful at all times.
It requires from me to be disciplined to my beliefs – in a way that I know right of wrong. And most importantly at all times consider my actions. Remembering that I am in control of the choices that I make.
Just this past Sunday was Purim. Purim represents the happiest day of our year and we will continue to celebrate this festival even after our long awaited redemption.
On Purim we read Megilath Esther twice and within it we find all the details of the history and story of Queen Esther.
Queen Esther is one of the women who I came across whilst preparing for my bat mitzvah. She is a true role model to me. From her I have learned that I am a unique individual with a personal journey in this world. And that I have incredible inner strength to stand up for what I believe in.
Esther did not have an easy time growing up.
She was orphaned at a very early age and bought up by her uncle. Yet despite that, she managed to grow up to be an individual with a tremendous amount of courage and strength. She overcame all of the challenges that were put in her way.
We learn about her incredible self-sacrifice and ability to put others before herself, when she risked the death penalty for approaching king Achashverosh without being invited by him. As a result of that act, she merited to be the one who was able to save the Jewish people from the evil decree that was hanging over their heads.
In the Megillah the verse says: “Esther found favour in his eyes and she expressed her kindness to him”
Favour in his eyes means that he appreciated her beauty and kindness and refers to her fantastic character traits her middot.
When learning about this woman the character traits that impressed me most of Esther was her courage and her ability to do the right thing even when logic dictated otherwise.
Living as a queen in the palace she still managed to adhere to the same lifestyle that was taught to her by her uncle Mordechai.
Some Rabbi’s describe the way she succeeded in keeping kosher was to keep to what today is known as a kosher vegan diet.
She kept Shabbat and Jewish Festivals by naming all her maidservants days of the week. This way she could manage to keep a calendar and know when important events were to take place.
Esther had realized that Hashem had placed her in the position of being a queen, so that she could choose to take responsibility by helping to save her people.
She hid her Jewishness and in a similar way that she hid her identity, we get dressed up on this festival and hide our identities.
It could not have been easy as her every move and action was observed in a similar way that public icons are observed today. She was watched and followed in the same way that Kate, Duchess of Cambridge is followed and observed. With all that she still managed to do what mattered most to her and keep her beliefs and Jewish lifestyle.
In this weeks Sedra we learn about the incredible character traits of the High Priest Aaron, who was also the brother at Moses.
We find how he was able to remain silent and respectful toward Hashem, after his two sons were punished by death for bringing their sacrifices into the holy ark.
The strength and incredible strong character that he displayed in accepting Hashems’ decree without saying a single word is a huge lesson and example to all of us.
He became the person from whom we learn to love and pursue peace. We are able to understand from the way he lived his life that Self control and thoughtful respect are the important components in developing and nurturing relationships.
This weeks Sedra together with the festival of Purim leave us with very powerful messages of how to achieve greatness wherever our journey of life will take us.
Working on developing our belief in Hashem – understanding that whatever may happen to us - however challenging or difficult, Hashem is constantly with us guiding and encouraging us, to help us overcome the obstacles that come our way.
And if we on the other hand concentrate on building our character traits, our kindness and love toward others we can achieve such great things in this world.
Its about becoming a person that leads a full Jewish life, a life based on choices that are made out of mindfulness, sense of control and understanding. In this way I hope to be a source of Nachas to my parents and family that have given me the most positive head start in being able to face whatever challenges and choices that await me.