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Sophia Sollinger - Dvar Torah

When studying my batmitzvah portion for my Dvar Torah, the part that stood out for me was this enormous dilemma the Israelites faced when they got to the Red Sea.  Imagine you were an Israelite who has been in slavery for 400 years. You were finally set free and dropped everything to leave the only home and life you knew, slavery, and raced out of Egypt.  You are now standing at the Red Sea 3,500 years ago. In front of you, you can see the Red Sea. It's wide and raging. If you were to try to swim across it, you will probably drown. Behind you, you can hear Pharoh’s Egyptian soldiers on horseback. They are coming closer and closer. They are wanting to capture you. You have two options, you could risk walking into the Red Sea and probably dying or, you could be captured by Pharoh’s Egyptian soldiers and taken back to Slavery once more!!! Oy vey, what a dilemma

In your mind you’re thinking, on the one hand I would take the risk of dying but die a free person.   But on the other hand, I could allow myself to be captured and go back to being a slave and stay alive.

Being a free person means you can choose to do right or wrong. You have choice. And in my mind if you don't have choice, you're not fully alive. Even if you were to choose being free and maybe the chance of you dying, you won't be completely free because if you were completely free it would be chaos. I know I'm free. I can make my own decisions. But I also know that my parents have set limits for me too, such as a bedtime and rules that are there to keep me safe and sound.

On the other hand, if you were to choose to be a slave, you know what you're getting yourself into, you might get a better owner, you're likely to be safe and you understand the work that you're going to do. It's the safer option for sure. You also know that you'll have the bare essentials, a little bit of water, a little bit of food. Whereas going into the desert with no food and water is very scary.

In the last couple of years, I've had to make some important choices. Which high school to go to, that I wanted to have a bat Mitzvah in Shul and that I wanted to learn Hebrew. At Habbonim Machaneh recently, when I landed badly off the trampoline and really hurt my foot, I could have simply come home, or I could persevere and during one of the activities, cross the beach in the middle of the night on crutches, being carried some of the way by madrichim.  Had I gone home, I would have missed out on all the fun and learnings from that point on, but then perhaps I’d have gone to the doctor and physio sooner, and perhaps the healing would have been quicker.   I chose to stay, and although it was sore, it was great fun and I created lovely memories and I am extremely happy with my decision.


Now I want you to think. To go back and to become a slave would be the easy way out. You know it's safe. But to go across the sea is the dangerous way, but if you were to get across, there was the possibility of a big reward. Which one would you choose?? I would like everybody here who thinks they would go back and become slave to raise the left hand & everybody who would risk going across the sea but with the possibility of being safe, to raise their right hand.  That was tough, but I hope you are ok with the decision you made!

What I have learnt about studying this was that decisions aren’t always that easy to make.  Sometimes there is no right or wrong answer; also, with each decision one makes, there could be good and or bad results, and you need to be able to rely on your experiences and the people around you, to help you make the right decision.

Just like the Israelites had the pillar of clouds by day and the pillar of fire, which helped guide them through the desert I feel that my family, friends and teachers are my pillars of clouds & constellations of stars/ pillars of fire, who protect, help and advise me and love me for who I am.  

As the Israelites decided to cross the sea and to be free, they took a bold, big decision, and they started a new chapter not just in their lives, but for the people to come.  And today I am starting a new chapter in my life as a Jewish adult.

Thank you for listening, and I hope the decisions that you make going forward are the right ones for both you, your family and generations to come.

Shabbat shalom


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