My Dvar Torah - Sarah Cranko

My torah portion is called Shmini, which is in the third book of the torah called vajikra in Hebrew or Leviticus in English. My parshah talks about the different types of sacrifices and rules that go with it. It also talks about kashrut, what foods we may and may not eat, basically our dietary laws. There is a whole long explanation about what animals we may or may not eat but there is no logical reason except the verse, ‘because I the Eternal am your God, you shall sanctify yourselves and be holy, for I am Holy.’ Why is Holy an answer? The word HOLY used, is the word kadosh, the same root of the word is used for Kiddush, the blessing made over wine on Shabbat. When we say the Kiddush we are making the wine holy, by honoring it and using it for Shabbat. We separate it from the normal, everyday wine. In fact, the whole Torah talks a lot about separating, knowing the difference between the good and the bad. We distinguish things all the time in our daily lives. Sweet and sour, black and white, then more complicated things such as who we do like and who we don’t. Judaism revolves a lot around being different; there are all sorts of rules and complicated laws that we are supposed to follow in the torah, but why are they there? [PAUSE] It makes us holy, like the Kiddush wine, we are different, separated from the rest of the population. But is this a good or bad thing? Should we celebrate difference? I think we should, difference is a difficult topic. It leads to all sorts of issues. I used to be at Herzlia, where everyone came from similar Jewish background. I then moved to Wynberg Girls where some of the children were underprivileged or from difficult backgrounds. It really opened my eyes to the world as I hadn’t been exposed to all these different cultures before. I am now in grade 9, my second year of high school at Westerford. Westerford to me is amazing, it has more cultures than you can think of, so many different types of people and there are therefore so many things to learn. Although everyone is so different there is no problem with the attitude towards one another, we have almost no problems with bullying at school. Sadly this is not always the case. At many schools or in other situations the different one is picked on and bullied. Jews have always been different with things such as their clothing style and dietary choices. This has caused us to be picked on since even before the Roman times. Jews are proud people, we are proud of our religion and our tradition which make us unique. Sadly this has caused us to be the perfect victim of blame and dislike. Anti-Semitism has existed for a long time, and people have found different reasons to discriminate against Jews. Back to the point, should we be different? Or should we celebrate sameness? Or celebrate the sameness in our difference? It’s not only about how other people see us, it is also how we look out and see the world. We should not block others out with the pride that we are Jewish and that they aren’t. We should accept them and welcome them into our lives to learn new and different perspectives on things. A lot of people don’t realize the way they act towards people who are different, maybe excluding them or treating them with arrogance. Although I think it is good to be different, so many people seem to want to be the same, such as following the latest fashion statement. People always try and fit in, it is part of our nature, but I think we should strive to be different, to think differently, find new ideas and new perspectives to whatever life throws at us. Especially since 0.01% of the South African population are Jewish, and half of those are girls, and probably less than half of those girls will have a Progressive bat mitzvah. But then if I zoom out and think of all my friends here at Temple Israel who are doing their bnei mitzvah and then all of the people in our congregation, I see that I will always be the same even though I am different, even if it is just that so many of us are addicted to chocolate. But actually, if you look at the bigger picture, we are all bound by the fact that we are part of the human race.Going back to the wine – what is the difference between the wine in the bottle and the wine in the Kiddush cup? The only difference is that you made a blessing over it. The wine is actually the same, until you decide to make it different. In the same way, it’s how we see other people and ourselves. Because every person that you meet is in some way the same as you. But they might think, feel and react differently. So getting to my question about whether we should celebrate sameness or difference, we should celebrate the sameness in our difference and the difference in our sameness.Shabbat Shalom

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