In their sermons Rabbi Greg and Rabbi Malcolm explain the meanings of the weekly portions from the Torah and the Haftarah. They often say that the Torah has answers for us – even though it was written a very long time ago and sometimes you have to look carefully for the meaning for our modern times.
In preparing for my Bat Mitzvah I had meetings with Rabbi Greg and one of the things we discussed and looked at was some of the rules and laws in the Torah. We spoke about the responsibility of living in a society such as obeying rules and facing consequences if we do not do so. We looked at examples of this, even strange sounding ones like when your ox gores another ox or when someone falls into a pit you have dug. Our discussions and study showed me that being a part of society means you have responsibilities and there are consequences for not living up to them.
The Torah and Haftarah portions today which we have just shared are good examples in guiding us.
In the Haftarah portion I read and chanted, the money which was supposed to be used for everyone’s benefit in fixing the Temple was not used for that purpose and was not paid to the people to do the actual work. When the King found out about this he was not happy and made a new rule for the money collected. In the portion he says: “Why haven’t you been repairing the Temple? From now on, you are not to keep the money from your donors; you are to hand it over for the repair of the Temple.” In the portion it is also said that the money “…was not used to make silver cups … or any gold or silver vessels; it was given to the artisans …” such as the carpenters and builders who did the actual work. In the commentary before you today, and I use the actual wording, it says that “Most likely the purpose of the new rule was to prevent the misappropriation of funds.”, which I think is quite obvious when one reads or listens to the portion.
Wow! What could be more relevant to our country today? When I first read the Haftarah portion for my Bat mitzvah preparation what jumped out to me was the word corruption. I am sure that you thought the same when you heard the portion today. Even someone of my age has heard about corruption and that using public money which should be used for something else is bad. That is just what the portion was about. Our scriptures are relevant to our responsibilities and those of our leaders and to the very important and scary issue of corruption in our country today.
The Torah portion today is just as relevant: It is all about receiving the law and obeying it. It deals with Moses going to Mount Sinai to receive the stone tablets with the teachings and commandments on them. It is also deals with the big promise to obey God’s laws made in the desert by the children of Israel. This is done in an exciting way with the promise made with blood – what is called a blood covenant. When he went up the mountain Moses told the other leaders to wait for him to return and he said: “You have Aaron and Hur with you; let anyone who has a legal matter approach them.” So while Moses was going to get the laws he also saw it as important that the law must carry on and be obeyed and enforced. The law and obeying it is just as important for our country today – that is a lesson the Torah shares with us.
In my preparations, another reading which has had an impact on me has been the Hashkiveinu. It talks about L’Chaim and Shalom – life and peace. And what can be more eternal and important to everyone than that?
Which brings me back to what I first said – that our Rabbis often say that our scriptures have the answers for us. Because the scriptures were written so long ago in very different times it can sometimes be difficult to see that, for example with sacrifices. I suppose what this means is that while some details on the edges may change a bit, what is really important for us does not really change and is eternal and it applies to everyone. My experience in preparing for my Bat mitzvah has helped me to understand this and I am very grateful for that.
I am also grateful to the Rabbis, the Shul, everyone who helped me in preparing for today – especially Rachel and N’Tanya – and to my Grandpa for driving me to my Batmitzvah lessons. Thank you to everyone who is here to support me today and to share this day with me: My immediate family – Mom, Dad, Thomas and Jude – and our wider family and friends as well. I appreciate and value all of you. Shabbat Shalom.