September 2013, Melbourne, Australia
Shabbat shalom. Thank you all for coming from far and near, up and down, from around Australia and the world, from Barcelona and Jerusalem. Today is my batmitzvah, it’s the day I have been preparing for, for a long time and I am very excited. I have a few thoughts about my parashah that I want to share with you.
After all of creation, Hashem says it is good but after the creation of humans God says it is very good. Maybe Hashem was the happiest with people out of all of creation. Humans are going to be the beings that can be trusted because they are in the image of God. Each human is completely different but all humans have a part of God inside them. Every human, from every county and every religion. This means that all humans can connect to each other from that little part that is the same. Whether they are enemies or not, we are still the same and belong to each other.
Allowing Adam to name the animals is a way of giving humans the opportunity to practise their leadership of the world as helpers of Hashem. Hashem also didn’t name all the creatures because humanity is going to have to interact with them. But maybe Hashem keeps a unique way of addressing the animals that humanity doesn’t understand.
It’s not fair that God gave humanity its name, but man gave the woman her name. When I started learning for my batmitzvah, a lot of kids in my grade started asking me why I was reading from the Torah, and that girls are not allowed to read from the Torah and that it is a zilzul, like to mess around with the Torah, and I kept on telling them, “In my shule, a lot of women read from the Torah, they participate in services. Just because you are not used to that in your tradition and your family, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist in other traditions.” It was very hurtful. I learnt to stand up for my values, and that if people expect things from you that conflict with your values, you don’t have to do them and you don’t have to listen to them. I am very proud to be part of this community, this family, that is there to support me in so many ways. I have all these role models that encourage me to do the unexpected. Over the past years I have learnt that if someone has a big influence on you, and encourages you, you can change yourself, you can change anything if people believe in you. People believing in you is a very big thing in life. I may only be 12 but I have courage and if I believe I can do amazing things.
After Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, Hashem comes looking for them and asks “Where are you?” ?איכה Hashem used to be the only one who knew things and now humans also know things, maybe things that would be easier not to know. But that is part of being human.
Even though they have just done a huge sin, he says “?איכה” where are you? And I read it softly as I imagined Hashem’s voice- Hashem is angry but so powerful, there is no need to yell. Even just softly saying “Where are you?” will get the message across. It might even get your attention more when someone is talking seriously than when someone is screaming at you without a meaning.
Although Adam and Chava are holy and the first children of Hashem, they can behave immaturely by blaming one another. I personally think that what Adam says is the most hurtful and disloyal because he not only blames Chava for her sin, but for her being – and he also blames Hashem for creating her הָאִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר נָתַתָּה עִמָּדִי, הִוא נָתְנָה-לִּי מִן-הָעֵץ וָאֹכֵל. He doesn’t only blame one but he has to blame two. He doesn’t only blame his wife he blames his” father” too.
After the sin of the forbidden eating, Adam, Chava and the snake all get cursed.
For those who noticed when it comes to the woman’s curse it says
אֶל-הָאִשָּׁה אָמַר, הַרְבָּה אַרְבֶּה עִצְּבוֹנֵךְ וְהֵרֹנֵךְ--בְּעֶצֶב, תֵּלְדִי בָנִים; וְאֶל-אִישֵׁךְ, תְּשׁוּקָתֵךְ, וְהוּא, יִמְשָׁל-בָּךְ. “To the woman he said: a lot of pain in your pregnancy, in sadness you will have children. And your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you”
The first time I read this verse I said to myself “Not in my house. We live in a feminist age. This curse has been broken because we are living in a time now where some women are free from, and others are fighting for all women to be free.“
Also, about pain and suffering in childbirth. I know women who enjoy childbirth. Not every hard thing is a bad thing. You have to let life teach you and as long as you live the more you learn. Two years ago my great grandmother Nana Trude passed away on this day. From the stories I have heard and know, her death was quite magical. She was close with family and friends. Before she died a nurse said to her “Enjoy the journey, love” . That line has spoken to me in a lot of different ways. It’s made me think that death can be wonderful in its right way and at the right time. It also made me see that people can be important to you even if you have just met them- or heard about them- and that stories change the way you see the life you have. I am sure that she is enjoying the journey and I want her to enjoy it forever as we should be blessed to enjoy ours in its right time.
After Cain- Kayin kills Hevel- Abel, God asks Ayeh Hevel Achiha, Where is Hevel you brother? And Cain answers לֹא יָדַעְתִּי, הֲשֹׁמֵר אָחִי אָנֹכִי. I didn’t know, am I supposed to look after my brother?
And God says: “What did you do, your brother’s blood is screaming to me from the ground” מֶה עָשִׂיתָ; קוֹל דְּמֵי אָחִיךָ, צֹעֲקִים אֵלַי מִן-הָאֲדָמָה.
Cain killed his brother because of jealousy, since God accepted Hevel’s offering and not Cain’s. That made Cain angry, so angry to the point of killing his own brother. Jealousy always leads somewhere. On the one hand, jealousy means that you like something so much you also want it. But on the other hand, someone else has the thing that you want and you don’t have it. This second point leads to something bad because you are holding a grudge against the person. But on the first way of looking at it we can use the other person as an inspiration for us to help us understand what we want, as opposed to leading to a destructive result such as damage to people or things.
Everyone, siblings or not, we all each other’s keepers. Even if you always fight, if one falls you will help him or her get up. If one cries, you will give him or her a shoulder to cry on. No matter what happens you always need to nurture the other. That’s what it is to be human. You always have care. It just depends how much you show you have care. Even when we fight, at the end of the day we’re family, and we care about each other and look after each other. There’s still love between us.
To be my sibling’s keeper in the wider communal sense means that we extend our care and concern beyond our family for emotional and physical support for others.
You may have noticed that in the sixth aliyah there is a long list of names. At first I wondered why read this long list year after year. But it is important to know where you are coming from in order to understand how you got here and where you are going. Family history is a very important thing in life. If your father had heart disease, then genetically chances are that you will too. Genetics are the main reasons why you look the way you do. I have red hair, that means that someone in my family must have had red hair even though I am not sure who that is. To understand your past it gives you a hint of the future. Now it’s the present, and I am inspired by my ancestors. From good and bad stories I learn about life, how it used to be, how my ancestors lived and that inspires me to live life. You have one chance at life and I have learnt to make the most of it and so far I have.
I want to thank my batmitzvah teacher Ronit Prawer, and Idan Deshowitz who helped with my haftorah, for helping me learn and discover my parsha and open the whole world of reading from the Torah for me with much patience and lots of chocolate.
My vision for the future is that I want to make a change. Spiderman once said “I was born normal, and decided to make a change in the world, now living a normal life isn’t an option anymore”. I want everyone in this room to live an abnormal life, to explore, to dream, to make a change.
Thank you for being here. Shabbat shalom.