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Coby Selikowitz - Dvar Torah

Shabbat shalom everybody

My parasha covers the moments just before the Israelites enter the promised land of Canaan. They have been wandering in the desert for forty years and now they are moving to a new home. Hashem reminds the people of what he has done for them and what he requires of them in order to live a happy and fulfilled life in their new land. It is a land of opportunity, full of fruits, milk and honey. God tells the Jews they need to work hard and obey his rules so that they can create an ordered society where everyone can achieve their potential, care for others and live well.

The relevance of this portion for me is that this is about beginnings. We all have times in our lives where we start something new. It could be a new home, town, school, job or a new period in life like going to university or getting married. Today, my barmitzvah, is the day in Jewish tradition that I move from being a child to an adult. So, I am at the beginning of a new period in my life, just as many of my friends, Jewish and other religions, are starting a new phase of being teenagers.

Starting something new is special because we have opportunity to do better than before and to learn from the past, like the Israelites entering Canaan. They had to remember the past and what they had been through so that they could try to avoid making the same mistakes. God was quite harsh when he told them to obey his laws or they would be punished, but if one looks at this as a story of morality, one can also see it as a parent trying to teach children right from wrong. Parents can sound very harsh sometimes but usually their intentions are to show their children that their behaviour has consequences.

Starting a new chapter is also a chance to grow and change. Those of us who are becoming adults can use this time to think about the kind of person we want to be. Part of my parasha talks about the seven most important foods that grow in Israel. Each food symbolises a personal quality that I think we should all try hard to cultivate in ourselves:

Wheat, a staple food, represents kindness, the first thing people appreciate in others.

Barley represents restraint and setting boundaries. We all need to hold back sometimes or set limits about what we are willing or able to do.

Grapes represent beauty. I consider this to mean the beauty we can see on the outside of others and the world as well as the beauty inside all of us.

Figs represent endurance which helps us to finish what we start. I also see this as determination to reach our goals.

Pomegranate, a fruit with a crown on top, refers to the Hebrew word hod, which means majesty and also thanks and recognition. For me this relates to being thankful for the gifts we are given by God or the universe.

The oil from olives is incredibly healthy so it represents the foundation of life.

Dates correspond to the Hebrew word for kingdom, malchut. To me this means that we are the kings and queens of our own inner worlds and we must make the best decisions we can for ourselves and the people around us.

When we begin a new phase in life, we always take the memories of the past with us because that has made us who we are. My wish for us all is that we also take the qualities of the seven fruits into every new experience so that we can be the best version of ourselves.


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