Toldot Batmitzvah

D'var Torah

by Maya

Rabbi Hackenbroch, Reverend Robins, Martin Russell {Deputy Lieutenant of Greater London } wardens, family and friends  Shabbat Shalom  and welcome to Woodside Park Shul. Thank you so much for coming here to celebrate with me on this special day of my Bat Mitzvah.

A special thank you to Aunty Val and Uncle Jack for flying in especially from America to be here today, to Dod Guy, Carmit, Shachar , Leah, Tom and my wonderful Safta and Saba for flying in from Israel. (Repeat in Hebrew).

Another special thank you must go to Netanel and Geva who have also come from Israel. You have become like big brothers to me and I’m so honoured we got to meet, host and spend time with you both here and in Israel.

I love you all

Bat mitzvah is translated as daughter of commandments, which basically means that I now have to try and follow the 613 laws of the Torah.  If I am honest, most Jews I know don’t necessarily follow all 613, and I know that I would find it really hard too. However, I think I will try and keep all the Mitzvot that I can, and also the ones I enjoy, for example, I deeply enjoy celebrating the Chaggim with my family. I have lovely experiences over Rosh Hashannah, Yom Kippur and Channukah that I wouldn’t change for the world and I hope to carry on celebrating in the future.

I have now explained what Bat Mitzvah is and how it relates to being obligated by Jewish law- but why celebrate it?  

Why have a big party? The answer is: we celebrate Bat Mitzvah because I can now make my own decisions and I can decide who I want to be. I have a whole new bank of opportunities to use and grow from. Although I will enjoy this new independence, I know that I will definitely need my parent’s guidance, support and money for a few more years.

Traditionally, girls celebrate their Bat Mitzvah by saying a speech on their weekly Parasha. My Parasha happens to be Toldot. For the past five months, I have studied my Parasha of Toldot with my amazing Bat Mitzvah teacher: Linda Mayer; I have found this Parasha to be a meaty, intense and an interesting Parasha. Toldot focusses on themes of family interaction and the complexity of human behaviour. I thoroughly enjoyed taking a deeper look in to the characters and their choices and I hope to share some of what I have learnt with you today.

Toldot tells the famous story of two twin brothers in conflict- Yaakov and Esav. The conflict started from the moment they were together in their mother Rivka’s womb.  Rivkah ,  prayed for children for years. She finally fell pregnant and then felt deep pains coming from within her womb. Rivkah was puzzled by her pains and consulted Hashem through a prophet for answers.

The prophet explained that she had two separate nations struggling inside of her, they would always be fighting and eventually the older would serve the younger.

 

Despite her shock and sadness, she felt relieved to have her pain explained.

When Rivkah finally gave birth to her twin boys, the Torah describes their physical differences. Esav was famously born all red and hairy and Yaakov was born holding his brother’s heel.

Years later, Esav grew up to become a hunter and Yaakov a full-time student of Torah. From this point in the parasha an interesting point is mentioned: Esav was favoured by Yitzchak and Yaakov by Rivkah.  

 

An important incident mentioned in the parasha that occurs between the twin brothers gives us an interesting insight in to their complex characters.

Esav being a hunter arrived home from a successful hunt starving hungry meanwhile, Yaakov was cooking some lentil soup.

Esav stormed in begging for some soup like a hungry animal and Yaakov seized the opportunity and offered his brother some of the soup that he had prepared but only in exchange for Esav’s birthright given to him as the first born. This birthright meant that Esav was entitled to many special benefits, such as receiving a larger inheritance, receiving the merit of priesthood, and most importantly, receiving the

special blessings for a life full of goodness. Not realising the consequences, Esav traded his birthright for a bowl of soup, something so big for something so small and meaningless.

Here, we see a classic example of instant gratification from Esav.  Instant gratification is when we don’t think about tomorrow, and only consider today.  For example,if I had an exam coming up and I chose not to study and to go out with my friends instead, I would struggle in the exam and in turn I would receive a poor mark.

This helps us understand how Esav, the older of the twins, could just give up his birthright in return for a bowl of stew. Esav cared only about what he wanted now; and did not consider the future. The  birthright that he sold was priceless, both in terms of money and spiritually, and this still didn’t cause him to bat an eyelid.

We constantly face an inner struggle between having immediate gratification and thinking about tomorrow. But healthy decisions can be made only when someone lives with the awareness that choices have a direct impact on our lives.  When we sacrifice short-term pleasure, and invest in our future, then we will attain true eternal pleasure and joy in this world.

However, the question is why do we have these inner struggles between choosing short term and long-term pleasure? It’s because, humans without feelings and struggles are just robots. We need these choices to give us the opportunity to grow as people and become the best we can be.

 

This leads me beautifully to the next concept that I would like to talk about. Throughout childhood we are told that in stories there are always good guys and bad guys, and looking deeper into Toldot has made me realise it’s not that simple and a lot of the time, difficult behaviours can be explained . In primary school I was always taught that Yaakov was the good guy and Esav the bad guy; studying Toldot made me realise that it is far more complex than that.

If we begin by discussing Esav’s behaviour. There must have been a level of insecurity and disappointment that he constantly felt due to his mother’s disapproval and his brother’s perfect behaviour. Additionally, the episode with Esav’s birthright and his stolen blessing from his father would have made Esav loose the will to ever do the right thing.

It isn’t Yaacov’s fault he is favoured by his mother. We also can’t ignore the fact that Yaakov, although seen as saintly, seized the opportunity to acquire the priceless birth right because in this situation his abilities overpowered Esav’s.

So we see that humans are complex and a lot of negative behaviour can generally be explained by someone’s personal journey and experiences. It is so important to use every opportunity to learn from our experiences and ensure that we use them to make us better people.

Speaking of the complexity of people. There are so many people from our history who perished in the name of Judaism and never actually got to go on their personal journeys and explore their complexities.  

In preparation for my Bat Mitzvah, I was honoured to twin with an 11-year-old girl who passed away during the Holocaust.

 

Her name was Lonny Krotoschiner and she was born on the 13th July 1932 in Berlin, Germany. She was deported to Auschwitz, Poland on the 12th of March 1943 with her mother and sister. Something that makes this even more memorable is that Lonny was born in July and sadly passed away in March, and so had she lived just a few months longer she also would have had the pleasure of celebrating her Bat Mitzvah.   

I would like to recite a poem now to honour Lonny’s memory and also celebrate with her today.

When I was 12,When she was 12

When I was 12, I became Bat Mitzvah.

When she was 12, she became Bat Mitzvah.

At my Bat Mitzvah, I started my road to life

At her Bat Mitzvah, she began her road to martyrdom [marteerdum)

At my Bat Mitzvah family and friends came to say Lechaim.

At her Bat Mitzvah, Rabbi Akiva, Channah, and her 7 sons, came to escort her to heaven.

When I was 12, I became Bat Mitzvah- and lived!

When she was 12, she became Bat Mitzvah…

And lives now, within each of us!

My speech would not be complete if I did not mention my  Great Grandfather Alf, Papa’s father, who sadly lost his Mother Emma and his three younger brothers in the Holocaust. He then escaped from Berlin to the UK and met my great-grandma Fay and the next generation of the Blond family was continued.  

I am so very thankful to have such a wonderful family who are all so special to me.

My fantastic grandparents Myra, Leon, Reuven and Yael. You are all wonderful, special people and I’m so lucky to have you in my life and I cherish my time with you all.

Noa- You drive me insane but we do have quite a laugh together.

Mum and Aba- you are the most amazing parents in the world you do so much for Noa and I , always putting us first ,supporting us in all that we do and surrounding us with so much love thank you for being you.

I would like to end off by wishing everyone here a life of long term pleasure and positive family relationships. Thank you so much for coming and Shabbat shalom.

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