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Maya Reitstein - Dvar Torah

My Torah portion is called Shlach l’cha from the fourth book of the Torah, Numbers or B’midbar in Hebrew. It starts with the story of Moses and the Israelites in the desert on the border of the Promised Land, when Moses sends out 12 spies (one from each of the tribes) to go into the land of Canaan and find out what the land is like. They bring a report of people living there, the Anakites which creates panic among the Israelites, for they have not been treated well in the past by other other nations. They compare themselves to the Anakites and feel that they are grasshoppers and the Anakites, giants.

As a consequence of the Israelites lack of faith, God rules that all those who were adults when they left Egypt would live out their lives in the desert over 40 years, however Joshua and Caleb, who remained faithful to him, as well as the young children of Israel, were allowed into the Promised Land. The parshah also includes sacrifices, capital punishment and ends with my maftir about the tzitzit which are reminders of the mitzvot or commandments.

The thing that grabbed my attention was the punishment that G-d gave out to the Israelites who panicked. All of those who were going to die-out were adults born as slaves that should have known to be more responsible. All of those who were to enter the Promised Land were born-free or young children who were not old enough to know how to be responsible, besides Joshua and Caleb.

This makes me think of Apartheid. The Israelites being like people of colour, under oppression, had children, the born-frees that had the responsibility of creating a just society and a peaceful environment and for making new laws and decisions for the Promised Land.

Similarly, the new generation or born-frees of Apartheid, have the same responsibility as the born frees of Israel to make a difference by starting a more peaceful and just society.

I myself am a born-free who must carry out the responsibility of making a difference in society, now that I am leaving my childhood. which brings me to the last part of my Torah portion which is mitzvot.

At the ends of a talis are tzitzit that remind us of the commandments that we need to follow to make a difference in our community and society. We do this by treating everyone equally and practising our religion. South Africa’s Bill of Rights has the same vision as my Torah portion which says that there should be one law for the stranger and the citizen alike, meaning that we are all equal.

Now that I have had my bat mitzvah, I must take on these responsibilities, for now I know how to practise mitzvot. So I am now a bat mitzvah, daughter of commandment.

Shabbat Shalom!

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