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Levi Baran-Rothschild - Dvar Torah



My Torah portion is Vayishlach from the book of Genesis and the story is about Jacob and

Esau’s reunion. One of the most well-known tales in the Old Testament's Book of Genesis is

the one about Jacob tricking his old and blind father, Isaac, in order to obtain Esau's

birthright/blessing. The main topic of the story, centred on their descendants, is the conflict

between Esau and Jacob's offspring and their elder, more civilized ancestors. What happens

along the way is that Jacob splits up his wealth and his family into two camps due to the fact

he thinks Esau is planning an attack on him, but it wasn’t an ambush, instead, the Torah

describes a heartfelt reunion from Esau whereas Jacob seems still very sceptical. Don Isaac

Abravanel (1437–1508) generally known as Abarbanel, was a Portuguese Jewish

statesman, philosopher, Bible commentator, and banker. He sees fear in Jacob’s response,

suggesting that Jacob still doesn’t trust Esau, despite the warm welcome he received”.

In chapter 33 of Genesis, Esau asks Jacob if they should travel together but Jacob is still

seeming sceptical even though there was some sort of a heartfelt reunion from the both of

them. Jacob goes with his family but decides not to go with Esau. As further explained by

Abravanel: Jacob feared that Esau's motivations would change and he might turn hostile.

Despite his warm greeting in 33:4, Jacob's self-deprecating stance throughout the entire

passage indicates his lack of faith in his brother's advances. Why does Esau wish to send

some of his soldiers with Jacob if he has really "found favour in the eyes of my lord"? Even

Esau's (reluctant) acceptance of his present, in Jacob's opinion, is not proof that Esau has

fully pardoned him.

I have decided to speak about trust, as Jacob did not trust Esau, which affected their

brotherhood. Trust, I feel trust is a big part of a human’s life. It gives other people the

subconscious thought that they can believe in you and can support you in going through

things, it can also be shown by doing a deed, like proving yourself by doing what you say

AKA keeping to your word, which I am doing by doing my bar mitzvah. It also encourages

people to allow you to support them when they are going through things. This topic is

interesting to me because I feel trust is what brings people together and makes us who we

are. An example of why trust makes us who we are is that if we didn’t have trust, we would

have to do everything on our own and a human wouldn’t be able to live life by themselves.

The reason why they would have to do everything by themselves is that they wouldn’t

believe anything anyone else would say, and then as a complementary reaction, they would

have to figure out everything by themselves.

I studied a text written by prof George Savran “Jacob is deceiving Esau once more.” Jacob

would be forced to travel to Seir and accept his brother's hospitality if he allowed his

brother's soldiers to accompany him, but he has no intention of doing so: Gen 33:16 Esau

departed that day for Seir once more. The reader is already aware of Jacob's crafty side

because of memories of his suspicious behaviour toward his brother when they were

younger. Jacob now exposes this aspect of himself. In Genesis 25, Jacob tricks Esau into

giving in against his best judgement and forces him to accept the birthright in exchange for

some lentil porridge rather than feeding his starving sibling. Jacob is not pressuring Esau

into anything as he did when they were younger.

I chose this portion because I feel it brings humanistic qualities and brings the story down to

a more emotional level that we can understand thousands of years in the future. I want to

share that trust is more than just a concept and is more like a mannerism (a behaviour -

something you have to demonstrate with actions). It is something you have to learn to

produce then and show the world(your friends and loved ones) so that they know they can

trust you. I want this speech to be meaningful for my friends because I know a lot of you will

think researching about mannerisms and qualities, you may think doing research for

anything is a lus, a lus meaning doing anything other than what is expected. It means so

much to me because this is what forms relationships and the world in a sense, I don't want to

get too political but we have to trust our government, which many South Africans don't, and

that is why many people consider South Africa to be running to turmoil.

As someone who is becoming a Jewish adult, the Jewish community has to put their trust in

me to become a mensch and for those who don't understand a mensch is someone who

does good and tries their best etc. By standing here today, I hope I am showing that I can be

trusted to show up for the community and to be responsible for the commitments I make.

Some examples of events that I have fulfilled is that I have completed my mitzvah project,

that in my opinion is a good example because it is a necessity when doing my barmi. I know

that as a Jewish adult I should follow Jewish morals, I realise by being in a reform shul, I am

not abiding by all the morals automatically, but the community knows that as a Progressive

Jew, I am encouraged to choose which morals and Jewish teachings are meaningful to me

in my life. I become the best person I can be by undertaking challenges in my life, for

example, my Bar Mitzvah (we will talk more about that in a bit), I need to help the community

when the community needs me, and the community needs to help me when I need the

community, as I have spoken about my mitzvah project is something where I have helped

the community, and a way the community has helped us is where when my mom broke her

foot not too long ago the community helped us with meals, and some lifts to the shul. I am

making a commitment to becoming the best person I can be. I understand that isn’t entirely a

Jewish commitment, but by doing my Barmi, that is a commitment I am making by taking this

journey of becoming a Jewish adult. This Bar Mitzvah journey has been a long and hard one,

but look at where I am now! I have most of my friends around me, and my family is also

here, I am grateful I have taken a commitment to do this journey. There have been times

when I just wanted to quit, but obviously, my mom made me persevere during that period

when I didn't want to do anything. My mom has been amazing my whole life! And so has

everyone else who has been in my life, and at this stage in my life, my friends mean

everything to me, so they get a shoutout and my family, especially the family that I see more

often have had more of a visual impact on my life. And I want to thank Vanessa my tutor

teacher, Rabbi Emma for being my Rabbi for today, and I want to thank everyone I have met

along the way.

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