Parashat Maasei: Teen Dvar Torah

We are pleased to share Chava Kornfeld’s Dvar Torah from her recent bat mitzvah. 

The name of my parsha is Maasei. It is the last parsha in the book of Bamidbar and it means journeys. The Torah repeats the names of the 42 journeys that the Israelites traveled in the desert during the forty years of wandering. They never knew how long they would stay in one place. That was up to G-d. When it was time to leave, they would just follow the pillar of cloud that led them in the daytime and the pillar of fire that led them at night. The Hebrew names of these places give us a hint about what happened in and around each place.

The Baal Shem Tov says that people also make these forty two journeys in their lives. How many of your own journeys can you remember?

I would like to choose a few of these rest stops and show how they can relate to me and others since taking about all 42 would really be a long speech.

The ninth place is called Dafka. Dafka comes from a word that means pounded, or beat, like a heart beat. It refers to how the Jews felt when they were afraid that their food supply had come to an end.

The fifteenth place is called Ritma. It is connected to the word Rotem. When Rotem wood is set on fire, its embers continue to glow on the inside even when the outside looks extinguished. This is the place where the Spies were sent out to investigate the Land of Israel.

The thirty third stop was in a place called Kadeish, which means made holy. Here Hashem decreed that Moshe and Aharon could not enter the land of Israel after they sinned by hitting a rock to get water instead of speaking to it.

Now I would like to go into more detail about these 3 places and how they connect to my life.

First I would like to talk about Dafka. When the Jews thought their food supply would run out, they began to complain to Hashem. The Jews had a negative thought about their food supply. Even though they didn’t know whether they would run out of food, they still worried about their food supply. This attitude really made more things like that happen to the Jews in the desert. In my life I thing something is going to be a certain way I picture it. When I began to enter sixth grade I chose Summit as my school. I thought I was definitely going to be able to take on the challenge, from my training from the Boulder Jewish Day School. Then when I began Summit, I started out having a very hard time academically. I learned that maybe if I tried a little harder of course I could have also done better. I had an expectation of what it was going to be like before I knew for sure about my new school. At first I felt like I wanted to give up on myself because I couldn’t learn the material well. Then afterward I pushed myself because I knew I could overcome my failures. Gladly I did with the help of Hashem and the belief in my abilities.

At Ritma the spies were sent out to investigate the land of Israel, 10 out of the 12 spies came back with lashon hara about the land. Sadly most of the other Jews believed the 10 spies. Just like lashon hara leaves a mark even after it’s been spoken, the rotem wood stayed lit underneath the wood even after it seemed to go out. On the other hand saying something good about a person can leave a positive impression. When I think of lashon hara it reminds me of how all the terrorists and enemies of Israel must be taking bad about Israel and the how they hate the Jewish religion. This is like the embers of the wood which continue to burn. When this happens Hashem gives Israel another idea to come up with for a great invention, because they were challenged by the enemy. So in some ways the enemy is doing something good for Israel, just like the rotem wood taught us about how lashon hara leaves a mark.

In Kadeish, Hashem tells Moshe and Aaron that they cannot cross into the land of Israel. Many people would feel really bad for these two great leaders and ask, why after everything they did because of one thing they could not go into the land of Israel. Even if Moshe and Aaron talked to the rock instead of hitting the rock, I think they still wouldn’t be able to go into the land of Israel. Everyone has their own specific purpose in the world. Moshe and Aaron’s role was to get the Jews out of Egypt and through the desert to receive the Torah – not to go into Israel. I have always wanted to own a world wide department store, but I also would like to be a famous singer and dancer. If I ever think or find out that its not my role to be a department store owner, I might decide it’s my role to do my hobby (singing and dancing), or something that I may not even thought I would do.

I would like to connect these three places with the three weeks of the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash.

In Dafka the Jews were very impatient with complaining about the food supply. Maybe on of the steps that will help us rebuild the temple is to be patient with people, Hashem, and life. Patience is a very important skill to master, for everyone, especially me.

I think the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed for many reasons. Everything Hashem does is for a reason. In Ritma the Jews were speaking lashon hara and not being kind to one another. As a consequence Hashem let the temple be destroyed. Hashem felt he could no longer use the Beit Hamikdash to have a connection with people who were not kind to one another.

In Kadeish Moshe and Aaron were not able to go into Israel. Now in 2011 we all have the rights to go to Israel. You even get a free plane ticket if you want to move there. How could you not take up an offer like that? If all the Jews lived in Israel, the place Hashem gave them, then we would probably be able to now have the Beit Hamikdash.

When I went to Israel I felt that no matter what way of Judaism you practice, you will fit in anywhere in Israel. You can start a conversation with a stranger and possibly find out you are related. It really feels like you’re at home.

One of the Haftorah’s from the seven weeks of consolation following the three weeks of mourning ends with this comforting verse.

For Hashem shall comfort Jersalem, He shall comfort all her ruins, He shall make her wilderness like Eden and her  wasteland like a garden of Hashem; joy and gladness shall be found there, thanksgiving and the sound of music.”

Throughout my life I have recognized many traits in myself that I also can find in my parents. My parents Deb and Gary, are both very special people who love Judaism and just who they are as a Jew. I would like to share a few traits that I have found in me and my parents.

If you have never met my mom you should know that she loves to host people. Since I don’t have my own house to host people I love to help my mom do it. My mother also is very hardworking. She has learned from her parents how important it is to do your very best. I am very committed to the things I do in school and how important I think it is to try and work hard to get good grades.

When I think of my father I think of him as a very determined person. When he came to Boulder he knew he had to do something. My father started Korny’s Kosher Deli. I wish I could have been born to eat/work and be there. My dad loves to help and volunteer when he has a chance to. When he signed up my brother Elie for little league, the team needed a coach. My dad gladly volunteered to be the coach.

When I think of the other traits I have in common with my parents I think of public speaking, giving lots of Tzadakah, leadership, and being involved in the Jewish community. I am very thankful I have all these amazing traits that make up Chava Tziporah. However I still have a few other talents and traits that are not from my parent like singing, dancing, and my award winning handwriting, and my dad says my humility to. I am very grateful to Hashem for giving my fabulous parents.

In my process of learning about these three places I set some goals for myself.

I would like to have more faith to ask for help, at times when I need it. In Hebrew Dafka also means “knocking”. So when I’m ever in a situation when I really need help, there are always friends, family, and Hashem to come to my side for me to lean on.

In Ritma we learn that lashon hara and the way you talk can cause problems. I sometimes spoke lashon hara and hurtful words without being conscious about what I was saying and the affects on other people. From now on I want to really think about what I’m saying, good or bad.

In Kadeish Moshe got impatient with the rock. I have really been impatient at many times in my life. I am going to be more understanding with people and things in my life. By staying calm and just going with the flow, I hope to succeed.

Before I finish I want to leave you with one more quote. “Know that the true worth of your travels lies not in your destination, but in who you come to be along the way.”

Yasher koach, Chava! 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

About Morah Yehudis Fishman

I have been teaching Torah and Chassidic writings for over forty years to students of all ages and backgrounds, both on the East Coast and the Midwest. I have been a director of several Jewish organizations in Santa Fe and Colorado. My articles and poetry on a wide variety of Jewish topics have been printed in many publications, and also are available online.

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One comment

  1. Yasher koach Chava!! well said and a huge MAZAL TOV from all the Secor/Katz family!!