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Josh Malia - Dvar Torah

Shabbat Shalom, family friends and of course the community. Thank you so much for coming and for celebrating this fantastic day with me and sharing my special simchah. Today I will be talking about my Torah portion called Vayetzei from the book Genesis. Vayeitzei is hebrew for “and he left” which is appropriately named as it centres around Jacob, leaving behind his old life and his journey towards G-d.

We start off with Jacob, one of the main male figures in our Torah. At the end of his father Isaac’s life, Jacob takes a blessing which his brother, Esaw, does not receive and becomes jealous. As a result, Esau wishes to kill him. We are clearly thrown straight into the action! Like any sane person would, he runs away. Exhausted, he settles down for the night, using a rock he finds as a pillow and there he dreams of angels going up and down a ladder, and at the top of the ladder was G-d. Now you might be wondering what G-d said to Jacob, well you're in luck because I'm about to tell you. He said don’t be afraid Jacob; I’ve got your back. Comforted by this, he wakes up, journeys onward and meets a girl called Rachel at a well and he falls in love with her. The two are in love but Rachel’s father sees their new love as an opportunity for him to marry away his other daughter, Leah, who could not find a match. With a bit of deception, and because we’re in biblical times, Jacob ends up marrying Leah. But, he has not forgotten about Rachel and his love for her. So, the father makes a deal with Jacob for him to provide 7 years of labour in return for his blessing. And he does so. Fast forward, he goes on to have children with both Leah and Rachel. Leah gives birth to six sons and at least one daughter and finally, Rachel’s prayers are answered when she gives birth to Joseph.

My name is Joshua Jack Malia. I was born in Barnet Hospital in London. Unlike Jacob, I have fond memories of my family life and the snow and especially my fantastic friends. Like Jacob, I also moved away from my familial home and came to Cape Town when I was 6 years old, but I did this with my family. Like Jacob, where I went, I didn't know anyone at all, I had no friends and did not know where I was. But I was happy when I first saw the beach because nature calms me down and makes me happy and feel relaxed. That was what was at the top of the ladder for me. And then, as time went by I met new friends and got to know my family here in Cape Town for the first time. Like Jacob, I made a new home for myself. This is not a unique experience. I think we can all relate to this week’s parasha. This might be taking a new job, travelling on one’s own for the first time but in all of these instances, we are leaving behind what we know and what is comfortable and going into the unknown without that same support and comfort. And maybe it’s scary and it’s likely that we do not only experience this moving from the known to the unknown once in our lives. It is a continuous journey, a continuous push and pull of being comfortable and being uncomfortable. But this dance in life is made easier by a sort of guiding force. That could be whatever is at the top of the ladder or what G-d represents to you.

For me, I am in Grade 7 and it has been a super tough year as some of my friends may tell you. But my journey is guided by angels who help me along the way. Today, it is my bar-mitzvah and it has taken such a long time, hard work, dedication, preparation, a movement of known to unknown up this ladder and I can't believe this time is finally here. I'm so excited to celebrate. I also can’t wait to start another chapter as a new door opens in my life, becoming a “Jewish Man”. Like Jacob, at the beginning of my B’nei mitzvah, I was a boy. Now, as I stand here before you today, having completed my b’nei mitzvah requirements, I too end this chapter, or parasha, as a man. For the rest of my life, I really hope that I find acceptance, hope, peace and kindness like Jacob. Thank you for listening to my special journey which in so many ways resembles that of Jacob’s. Now is the time to celebrate!!


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