Rabbi, Rebbetzin, Family and Friends, Shabbat Shalom and welcome to my Batmitzvah.
Today, as I celebrate my Batmitzvah, I become a Jewish woman. From now on I have to start to think and make decisions for myself. Although this is really exciting – it is also a great responsibility…… To prepare for this I have done a lot of learning about what it means to have a Batmitzvah. At Kolot, my mum and I learnt together about different women in Jewish history who, each in their own way, made a difference to the world. They inspired me to also, in my own way, do my part in helping others. I also went on a very special trip to Israel with my mum…… I would like to share with you how Kolot and my trip to Israel taught me what it means to become a Batmitzvah. First however, I am going to tell you about the Jewish date today……..
Today is a very unique day in the Jewish calendar. Today is the 1st of Nissan. It is not only the beginning of the new month, but also the beginning of a New Year….. You might be wondering if I am confused – isn’t Rosh Hashana, which we usually celebrate in September the new year!?
Actually you’re right. In the Jewish calendar there are two new years
– most people only know about Rosh Hashana, but it is Nissan that was actually the beginning of the New Year in the Torah……
Nissan is a very special month – soon, we are going to celebrate Pesach. The story of Pesach is when the Jewish people left Egypt and stopped being slaves to Pharoah……. For the first time, in a really really long time they were free! They got to start their lives again
– they became their own people with their own laws making their own decisions. For the first time they were their own nation! ……
In many ways I can relate to this. Obviously I was never really a slave to my parents! But, as a child I didn’t have any responsibilities of my own. I just had to do what my parents told me, and they took care of the rest…… Now that I have had my Batmitzvah, I have to take responsibility for my own actions. Just like the Jewish people had to start to think for themselves, I have to always think about improving myself and being the best person I can be. That doesn’t mean that I can make my own rules, but it does mean that I am responsible for the things that I do and the way that I live my life. I hope that now I am freed from being a child I will become the type of person that I learnt about in Kolot…….
Each of the women I learnt about in Kolot inspired me in different ways. Although I would love to tell you about them all, we don’t have time for that – so we’ll have to save that for another day! ……
For now, I would like to share with you the story of the person who I share my name with, Hannah….. Hannah was not only the first woman to pray, she was actually the first person to pray….. When Hannah was praying, her husband Elkanah saw her talking to herself and thought she was drunk. He asked Hannah why she was drunk and she told him that she was praying. Thanks to Hannah, the Jews learnt how to pray and until today we pray by quietly talking to Hashem, just like Hannah did……
Prayer is a very important part of Judaism. It is a time in the day when you take time to yourself and thank or ask Hashem for things….. It helps remind us what is important in life and what it is that we really really want. We can pray not just for the big things, but for the little things as well….. It gives us a chance to take a minute out of our busy day and think about the things that matter and the things that don’t……
A few months ago I was lucky enough to visit the Kotel, the wailing wall, for the first time in my life….. Being at the Kotel was a very special moment for me because it is an important part of our Jewish heritage. Thousands and thousands of Jews, throughout history, have stood at the Kotel and prayed. I felt so privileged to be a part of this tradition, to stand for a few moments in silence and really think about my life…… I know that from now on, I am an important link in the chain of Jewish traditions……
While I was in Israel, I also spent time helping others. We volunteered packing rice for families who cannot afford food and visited an orphanage. I realised how lucky I am to live such a privileged life. The trip reminded me to always be grateful for the things that I take for granted……Sometimes we forget about the little things that make us happy, because we think that it is normal to have these things. Being in Israel reminded me that we should always be grateful for the lives we have, and for being a part of a Jewish tradition where people care so much about each other…….
As I embark on this journey and the next chapter of my life, I will always remember how inspired I felt by the women I learnt about in Kolot,
and the importance of giving my time to others in Israel….. I hope that in the future I will continue to be a true aishet chayil – a woman of honour. This is the prayer sung by a husband to his wife on a Friday night. There is a line in Aishet Chayil that relates to our duty to give charity and help others…..
Capa Parsha L’ani, V’yadeiha shilcha l’evyon
‘She spreads out her palm to the poor, and extends her hands to the destitute.’ …..
Becoming Batmitzvah isn’t just about how many Jewish laws you keep, or how well you keep them. A Mitzvah is an act of kindness, a good deed….. To me, becoming a Batmizvah, a daughter of Mitzvahs, is about being the best person that I can possibly be. Making a difference to other people’s lives, and treating everyone with loving kindness
So today – as we begin a new Jewish year I will remember this lesson…... I will always strive to live a meaningful life, helping others and doing my part to make the world a better place, one mitzvah at a time…….
Thank you all for coming to share this important moment with me.