Shabbat Shalom everyone and a warm welcome to my Bat Mitzvah celebration. I would like to thank everyone for coming here today. A special thank you goes to those who have travelled from near and far places like Israel and even North London.
Today, we are celebrating my batmitzvah. Bat-mitzvah can be translated as “Daughter of Commandments”. This means that from today, I am officially a daughter of the 613 commandments of the Torah. My parents can no longer take responsibility for my sins and I am now responsible for my own choices and behaviour. Although I will enjoy this new independence, I know I will probably still look to my parents for guidance for a few more years. Additionally, at this milestone in my life, I am expected to know the difference between right and wrong which I know can be challenging in certain situations. However, I will always try my best to look at a situation and make the best decision I can.
Traditionally, girls celebrate their Bat Mitzva by saying a speech on their weekly Torah portion –or in Hebrew their Parasha. My Parasha is called Vayikra.
Over the last few months, I have been enjoying bat mitzvah lessons with my teacher. I studied my Parasha Vayikra, in great depth, and I found it to be a unique, special and also very technical Parasha. Reason being, is that it is not a story, rather, it’s a collection of rules which inform the reader about the sacrificial offerings one had to bring to be closer with hashem. Additionally, I
I studied the character of Esther and found how she was a true role model to Jewish women with many traits and so few imperfections. Esther faced many challenges and I realised that occasionally I had a few things in common with her and I am positive that many of you will feel the same.
I will start by talking about my Parasha of Vayikra. As I previously mentioned, Vayikrah talks about the sacrifices that were brought to hashem. During Biblical times, people used to offer sacrifices, in hebrew korbanot, to Hashem in order to connect to Him. Nowadays, the way a human connects with god is through prayer. During Biblical times it was different. To connect to Hashem, a person would slaughter an animal in a special way and place it on the altar and burn it. The smell of the burning animal would rise up to heaven and strike a connection between man and Hashem. These days, we pray three times a day to connect to Hashem, not quite so grim!
Whilst studying korbanot, I found one which really touched my heart. This was the simple daily offering of dough made up of only salt, flour and oil. Even though it might seem plain, this sacrifice carried a lot of meaning for people. There were strict laws regarding the daily offering. The law states that no yeast or honey can be added to the daily offering because it alters the shape of the dough.
Salt on the other hand, was allowed because salt only brings out the flavour that is already there. I learned that we should follow the model of the salt and realise our full potential by developing our own unique talents and abilities and bring out our own ‘flavours’ without feeling the need to imitate others. Salt is used in this sacrifice to bring out flavour just like you should always bring out the flavour in yourself and let others know who you really are. We should be true to ourselves.
Following on nicely from the idea of ‘being true to yourself’, I would like to speak about Queen Esther, who is the star of the Megillah which we will be reading on Purim in a few days. Esther had some highly admirable character traits which we see through her actions and choices. I would like to share some of my interpretations of Esther’s actions and choices with you today.
To begin with, Esther was an orphan who lived with her uncle, Mordechai. This already teaches us a lesson that one’s background does not hinder their future. Esther’s background did not affect her decisions to be a good person. She did not let her past determine her future , she let her choices determine her future.
Esther also really valued preparation time. She ensured that she was prepared for the all the tasks she had to face. We see this trait a number of times throughout the megillah. Firstly, at the beginning, when Esther goes through the necessary beauty treatment before becoming queen. Additionally, we see this trait when Mordechai tells Esther to appeal to the king to free the Jewish people from Haman’s regime. The megillah shows that she was reflective- she engaged with her fears and doubts and thought about what she had to do. At first, she was reluctant but after the adequate preparation time she realised that she had to do it. Another way she prepared for this was by organising a time to fast. Esther felt that this would bring her closer to Hashem which would give her the strength to carry out her mission. We commemorate Esther’s fast to this very day.
Esther also really got her timing right. Esther approached King Achashverosh and invited him and Haman to a banquet. This was an attempt to get the timing right before she told Achashverosh about Haman's plot to kill the Jews of which she was one herself. She didn’t jump into things before the right time. Everything Esther did was considered and efficient and carried out to perfection.
When studying the book of Esther, as I previously mentioned, I realised I had a few things in common with Esther. Throughout the Megillah we see just how competent Esther was. Everything she was required to do, she did. At the same time, she wasn’t too quick to act, she was reflective and thoughtful yet very efficient. I sometimes find myself carrying out tasks quickly and efficiently just like Esther did. However, I always try and take a ‘short’ moment to think about what I am doing and ensure I have made the right decision.
At this milestone in my life, I hope to continue in the footsteps of Esther and I also hope to grow to become a happy and contented Jewish woman.
I would like to end off by thanking my amazing family and friends who have made me the person I am.
Grandma Sheila and Granpda Michael - You are amazing people. I know so deeply that you are both 100% there for me. I feel like I am the centre of your lives and I appreciate and love you so much.
Safta and Saba – even though you cannot be here with me today, I know that you are thinking of me and I look forward to celebrating with you next time we are in Israel.
My sister Cali – even though we sometimes argue, you are a great sister and very funny and and I want to let you know that I love you very much.
I would like to thank Mrs Myer, who taught me my d’var torah and made my batmitzvah lessons such good fun – I will really miss having them each week.
I would also like to thank Rabbi Wayland for running the different clubs which I have attended in Woodside Park synagogue and also for his family’s hospitability – I have really enjoyed eating Friday night dinner at your house.
Dad- You are a real joker and know you how to make everyone laugh. You are great with your hands and always help me fix my phone- I really appreciate that. You are so there for me and I love you so much. Thank you for being you.
Mum- You are amazing. I can tell you anything and you give me the best advice. I love going shopping with you and just hanging out with you in general. I admire how you are always so calm whatever the situation. I love you so much. Thank you for being you.
I would like to end off by wishing everyone here a hearty Shabbat Shalom and a happy Purim.