We are pleased to share Claire Victor’s Dvar Torah on Parashat Eikev from her recent bat mitzvah at Congregation Bonai Shalom.
by Claire Victor
Shabbat Shalom! Everyone tune in because this is going to be good! Or, at least I hope it is. Growing up and being a bat-mitzvah is all about being responsible for my actions and doing good deeds wherever I go. Well, that would be a perfect person…. And unfortunately I’m not one of those people … yet. But the torah will help me reach that goal. The torah is your parents advising you for the best, well, most of the time, as well as a history book. But the torah isn’t a straightforward list of rules of what to do and what not to do, we have to interpret its wisdom.
Before entering the Promised Land, Moses stops to remind the Jews. Without G-d, all of the Jews would still be in Egypt as slaves. G-d led them to freedom and Moses reminds them not to forget that. If they got too prideful of all the success in the Promised Land, they could forget about how G-d helped them get to this moment and believe that they did it all themselves. In my parsha, moses teaches the Israelites some very important lessons that later become the the 2nd paragraph of the shema. In the beginning of the 2nd paragraph of the shema it says, v’hiya im shamoa tishm’u, it means that it will come to pass if you really, really listen. Rashi, the famous French medieval commentator says that the strongly emphasized repetition of the verb, to listen, teaches us that if we hear and learn the lessons of the past, we will be more able to hear the new lessons of the future.
Rain is the main idea of the shema because rain is very important for life. If it doesn’t fall at the right time crops may not grow. According to the rabbi’s of the Talmud, G-d withholds the rain because of our actions, and the remedy is for us to pray, study, and do mitzvot to let the rain, fall. The rain is a metaphor for G-d’s blessing. About a month ago, we had many devastating wild fires up in the mountains. It was caused by a wet winter, which enhanced growth, and a dry summer, which dried it all up. This very well could have been caused by our actions causing G-d to withhold the rain. We might have not been doing enough mitzvot, and praying to G-d and for the rain. Eventually, after the sacrifice of about 600 homes the fires were put out. I believe that it’s a warning of bigger challenges to come. For example, Global Warming, or climate change, the polar ice caps are melting in an extremely rapid rate and the clean air our ancestors once knew, are filling with pollution. If we don’t put in an effort to be the kind, hard working, thankful, people we were meant to be we can say good-bye to the amazing ecosystem of the ice and cold and to, eventually, the Earth.
The shema’s lessons say that you should love and follow G-d and his laws. The shema was, and always will be very important for Jews, the future of Judaism, and the well being of our only home. If these lessons were not engraved into the minds of the impatient Israelites I’m not so sure that we would all be able to be here today. The shema plays an important role to keep the jewish religion and our whole world alive. In saying this blessing we reinforce our commitment and love to G-d.
Moses promises if we pray, follow G-d’s laws, and are kind, we will be blessed, but the only problem is we can’t be sure that will happen. Last month, even if a bunch of us, Jews and non-Jews came together and just prayed for the rain, we have no way of knowing for sure that the fires would be put out because of us. Even though it’s not a guarantee we’re better off to pray, follow laws, and be good people than to not.
After taking karate for about 4 ½ years I’ve finally reached my black belt. I’ve realized that all my hard work and determination was kind of like how the Jews had to be to keep G-d and Judaism alive. They had G-d’s rules and guidelines to start them off, but they had to mix it with their determination, and commitment. Mr. Spann, my karate instructor, is like Moses, in a way. He tells me to follow the rules, such as pay attention, be intense, kick higher, and so on. But if I choose not to follow them, I would have never been able to reach my black belt.
Luckily, I do follow his rules, but that still is not enough; I need to take it into my own hands. Let’s say, in class, Mr. Spann showed us a new move. I paid attention, was intense and so on, but if I wanted to perfect it and take it to the next level I needed to commit. I needed to practice at home. I have used this advantage to really push my self to my absolute limit and reach my goal of becoming a black belt. I now need to reach my goal of becoming a black belt in being a person. With G-d’s laws to guide me through life and my own commitment I’m sure that I will achieve this goal.
To start on my goal, I’ve been working on doing more good deeds by doing my bat-mitzvah project. I volunteered at Community Food Share for 6 weeks. During that time, I searched through bins for misplaced food items, packaged pasta and cans into boxes, and categorized and weighed food. After volunteering, I realized how easy it was to help out. From now on, one of my life-long goals is to volunteer 10 hrs each year.
I also helped out at Bonai Shalom during the Hunger Awareness Month of March. I attended a meeting, which gave me the information on what kind of challenges were going to be happening during the month. After the meeting, I went to each of the Sunday school classes and briefly explained the challenges. That way, the kids themselves, would know what was going on and how they could be a part of it. Then I made goal posters on volunteer hours, food waste, and a food drive. In making these posters, I wanted to help people realize their food waste after a meal, places you can volunteer and help out, and just donating food to the organizations that need it to help the hungry.
Rashi teaches us that if we listen hard, we will allow the lessons of the past to help guide us in the future. I hope that as I become a bat-mitzvah today, I can draw all the wisdom from the past, both Torah and Karate, to help me become the best person I can be in the future. I am so thankful to have gotten this particular portion because it has really drawn me closer to Judaism and to G-d.
Yasher koach, Claire! Boulder Jewish News encourages Bar and Bat Mitzvah students to submit their d’var torah for publication, so that the community may learn from our young adults. Information about Mitzvah/Tikkun Olam projects is also welcome. For more information, please email email@example.com.