We are pleased to share Adin Goldfeder’s Dvar Torah on Parashat Yitro from his recent bar mitzvah.
by Adin Goldfeder
Good shabbos. Thank you all for liking me enough to come from far and wide to celebrate my bar mitzvah with me. You may have noticed that my parsha is in the “Torah’s Greatest Hits” album. But before the 10 commandments, moshe’s father in law Yitro comes to visit, with moshe’s wife and 2 kids. Yitro observes Moshe’s judging system and then makes it a whole lot better. Then the 10 Commandments happen.
These two parts of the Parsha don’t seem to have much to do with each other. But one interesting thing is that, at the very end of the Yitro part, the Torah says that Moshe sent Yitro back to his homeland. Why would Yitro leave before the ten commandments? I’ll come back to this question in a little while.
I think that its very cool that the 10 commandments are in my bar mitzva parsha. Its telling me in straightest way possible that I have to keep these commandments. No messing around. I want to give a quick tour of the 10 commandments from my point of view. Lets start at the very beginning a very good place to start.
Number one – “I am the L-rd your G-d” is very interesting because the word “your” is singular. G!d says: I am your (singular) G!d who took you from the land of mitzrayim! There is a difference than there just being a G!d and that G!d being the G!d of your life. Bar Mitzvah is in some way about making the G!d of your parents’ life also the G!d of your life. I got to learn with Rabbi Maayan and Rabbi Rackover, and they both felt that this is the hardest commandment to keep. They both said that it was very hard for them to grasp the fact that there is a G!d above who plays a very important role in all of our lives. I guess now that I am bar mitzvah-ed I’ll start to see just how hard it really is.
The second commandment is to have no other gods. Well what does that mean? What would another god be? A god is something that guides you to chose what you’re going to do. So a false god is something that pushes you to make a bad decision. Some of your everyday false gods may be financial problems, popularity, fame, facebook or instagram because people act funny because of these things. One of my false gods is my computer. It sometimes makes me get snarky with parents, and sometimes after playing on my computer I get grumpy.
The third commandment is not to say Hashem’s name without meaning it. On a bigger level, this teaches me to be more careful with my words.
The 4th commandment is Shabbat. Shabbat has always been an amazing thing for me. Shabbat is a time to wear nice clothes, eat good food, and relax with my friends. Some of my favorite Shabbat memories were in Boulder. I would like to take this opportunity give a shout out to the badass jewish gang and all the people from Aish Kodesh for making all my shabbats awesome. I’m curious to see how Shabbat will be after my bar mitzvah.
That brings us to commandment #5 – honoring your parents. Some of you (mostly kids) probably think that honoring your father and your mother is the hardest commandment to keep. I don’t agree, I think that no matter what your parents do its probably for the good, believe it or not. I certainly believe that about my parents, even though as far as I can tell, they are totally wrong most of the time. By the way, another thing about becoming a bar mitzvah is that I am now responsible for my own mistakes and not my parents. So I would like to give a shout out to my parents who have been responsible for my mistakes until thus far.
#6 is Thou shalt not murder. Seams pretty straightforward, right? Well what qualifies as murder? Some rabbis say that embarrassing someone is like killing them. You can also kill someone’s livelihood or someone’s self esteem. Looking back I feel like I’ve killed a lot of people in these metaphorical ways. So how would I bring someone back to life? Well I could make people feel good about themselves and their accomplishments and not compare their accomplishment to mine which will heighten their self esteem. Maybe I’ll start by practicing this on my sisters.
Here we are at #7 one of the most obvious commandments. Thou shalt not have an affair with a married woman who isn’t your wife. Enough said.
What about #8, stealing? The literal meaning of stealing is taking something without permission. I’m sure every one of you has done it. Like using our sister’s ipad without permission. Another way to steal is to steal from G!d. The Talmud says that when you don’t say a bracha (blessing of thanks) you’re stealing from G!d. He created that thing you’re going to eat and saying a bracha is like paying him, in a way. I’m working hard to remember to say berachot.
Next, don’t testify falsely in court. This could also mean not to say false things about people. What if I were to go to my friend’s house and say to him, wow, that new kid Joe is a real loser. Even though I really like him but all the popular kids said that he is a loser.
Commandment number 10 is don’t be jealous. One might think, wait, don’t be jealous?? Isn’t that a human instinct? Jealousy has been going on since cain and abel. How could I not be jealous of Aderets luck? Or Sams charisma? Tovis biking skills? Talias ability to make everyone like her? So one might ask, how would I stop jealousy? Well, gratitude is a really good way to counter jealousy. If you ever feel yourself being jealous you can look at your good points and what you’ve got without comparing to other people. Still, I think is the hardest commandment to keep.
Now let’s go back to that original question. Why did Yitro leave before the 10 commandments? One answer the rabbis give is that he didn’t. He actually was there for the 10 commandments, and the Torah is just out of order and the whole Yitro story happened after the 10 commandments. Or else what was he telling Moshe to judge the people with?
According to some translations yitro wanted to leave and moshe let him go. That’s how Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch translates the verse: moshe let Yitro go. I can relate. It’s like Yitro’s Bar mitzvah. Moshe lets him go because he knows that Yitro has to absorb all this information in his own way. He’ll be responsible for his own mistakes and have a lot of freedom to figure things out. So if you mix these two things, Yitro got to hear the 10 commandments, and then he got to go home and figure out how it all works.
Unlike Yitro, I don’t feel like I’m leaving my bar mitzvah to a place where no one gets it. I am surrounded and supported by wonderful people who believe in me and guide me and help me be a good person and do those 10 commandments.
Of course I want to thank my mom in the most immediate sense for making sure every detail of this bar mitzvah has been perfect. But on a deeper level I want you to know you are one of my all-time best friends. You’ve always been a great role model for taking crap from people and giving love in return.
. Abba thank you for being another one of my greatest friends! I feel so lucky that I got to have as my bar mitzvah tutor I really couldn’t have done this without you. thanks for being so patient with while I learn.you also have always been a great role model for me.
Thank you Avigayil and Aderet for being my backup Torah readers and being my portable teddy bears. I apologize for all my teenage weirdness.
I want to thank Safta and Opa for teaching me the ropes and being such a part of my life and coming to visit so often.
Thank you bubbie and zeide for being wonderful grandparents and showering me with love. My visits to Florida have always been a blast they are great memories that will always be with me.
And I want to thank all the extended family who came. I’m really thankful that you all came to celebrate me. i would like to give a big shout out to the cousins that don’t know me but have came to celebrate with me. you really show me how important family is.
Thanks to everyone in the Boulder community who have been like a family to me, and have been great role models for me, and special thanks to all of you who made the trip. You rock. Seriously.
Thank you to the Sharon community. Even though I didn’t want to move here, it wasn’t about you guys. You guys are really OK.
Thanks to all my friends from KSA. It’s hard being the new kid, and you made my transition a lot easier. I hope I didn’t miss anyone. But I’ll try to thank you all in person. We’re going to finish up the service now, and I’m going to sit down and thank Hashem that this part is over. Good shabbes.
Yasher koach, Adin! 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.