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Oliver Hendler - Dvar Torah


My torah portion Va’etchanan takes place right before the Jews are entering the Promised Land. Moses knows that he won’t be allowed into the land, so he is giving the Children of Israel a reminder of what has happened over the last 40 years. This includes the Jewish slaves escaping from Egypt and the 10 commandments and the most famous prayer in the siddur, the Sh’ma - meaning I have a lot to speak about… I have four topics that stood out for me from my Torah portion while I was studying it with Rabbi Greg and my parents and they are:

1) Firstly, the saying or idiom “buttering things up”, Meaning to compliment someone or something before asking for a favor to make the chances of someone agreeing more likely to happen. Moses starts his portion by complimenting G-d and then asking them if he can go into Israel, G-d replies with a no. Most people are wondering why G-d said no and there are a few possible reasons: Moses killing the slave master who was whipping the Jewish slave back in Egypt.

OR When G-d told Moses to ask a rock to give him water he instead whacked it with his staff. I feel bad since he worked his whole life to get to Israel and he couldn’t even go in, he could just see into it from Mount Pisgah. Imagine spending your whole life doing a job/project then getting fired right when you were going to complete it. This has reminded me that if I’m trying something even the smallest mistake can ruin it all. I would have asked for a second chance - yet Moses did and still got a no.

2) The second theme is Judaism or following the traditions of my family that I have been raised in. Why would I like to be Jewish? There are many reasons including the many holidays, traditions and food. On Shabbat, I love wine/grapetiser and challah and lamb when we have it. On Pesach I love matzah with honey. I love bringing the family together and playing with all the dogs and the parrot. Everyone in my family knows that my Granny’s favourite child is the dog. I want to be connected to my grandparents and great grandparents that had to hide their Judaism to stay safe in the wars.

3) The third theme relates to family/ancestry as mentioned in this portion, and how traditions and values are passed down. My mom has told me her mother often said to her: “unless you’re bleeding to death you are fine”. That would explain why, if I were to have a not-so-serious injury my mom would say, “Just blow on it and it will be fine.” Dad would say, “you will be ok.” This is one such trait that has been passed down, perhaps slightly different, but same sentiment.

4) The fourth and final thing that interests me is the Jewish calendar implying that the world started merely 5783 years ago. Scientific records tell us the Earth is billions of years old. Science tells us how things work and what the answer to those questions are. But it doesn’t tell us “Why” things are the way they are. The Torah is very interested in why.

I have learned that Judaism is more than just a religion, it’s a way of life. These traditions are surprisingly important to me and so today my bar mitzvah is connecting back to all those generations of my family who have had bmitzvahs before me. Today I become a Jewish adult, getting lots of privileges and presents but also lots of responsibilities. In finishing, I would like to tell a story related to an event in my portion. My grandfather sometimes reminds me of this story, which involves Moses, coming down from mount Sinai with the commandments. The story goes that he reached his people and said unto them. “I have brought you 15…Arghh!!! shoot! “10 commandments.”

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