Joseph Epstein - Dvar Torah
Again, good Shabbos to everyone. Thank you for joining my family and me for our Barmitzvahs. Being the older twin by 2 minutes, I have made sure Jake got all the hard parts of today’s service so I can just cruise.
We are very lucky to have the opportunity to share the Barmitzvah portion and learn together the meaning and significance of this day. While we may not have been able to hold our barmitzvah in our shul, we have learnt that one is able to hold prayer anywhere and it will deliver the same significance and meaning.
I also want to say a special thanks to Rabbi Greg and Chloe for all your guidance, and for Temple for ensuring we are able to perform in front of family and special friends on our chosen day.
Our Torah portion, Mishpatim, provides serious thought and contemplation. It holds many laws that God passed down to Moses and provides guidance for us as Barmitztvah of taking responsibility and using these laws and rules into our everyday life.
In studying for today, I came across this verse which I discussed with Rabbi Greg, as it resonated with me so much:
“You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been stranger in the land of Egypt”
This verse has strong significance in the Jewish faith. As Jews we learn that there have been many occasions in history that we have been oppressed, and yet we have always risen from these difficult times.
We learn from this verse that even if one has been oppressed, that is not a reason to oppress others. We must have compassion for everyone.
We don’t always know the circumstances of others, and one should never take advantage of anyone’s difficult situations.
Living in Cape Town, we experience every day how difficult some lives are. The car guard, the hungry and the homeless. These are people that we should try to help. Even with a small act of kindness, as opposed to shying away or avoiding them. Even a smile will make a stranger feel a sense of worth.
This is very close to us as a family, and we try our best to help those less fortunate. Our mitzvah that my brother and I will be doing to commemorate our Barmitzvah is to assist a small but wonderful cause, called Ladles of Love, where they provide meals to the homeless and give them a sense of worth, each time they see them.
As I start my journey into adulthood, I recognise that the Parashah, Mishpatim, provides the very foundations of how to live life, and consider the effects one has on others. I will do my best to ensure that I uphold these values and the learning of this very important parashah.
Thank you again to everyone for joining.