Wednesday, September 7, 2011

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Sarah Druckman on Shoftim

Believe it or not my Torah portion today is not Noah and the great flood, even though that may be the most appropriate, given this past week’s events. I am so relieved that we are all here together celebrating my Bat Mitzvah, with electricity -- and with the Rabbi.

Today my Torah portion is Shoftim, which means “judges”. Shoftim is a fascinating and very complex torah portion about all kinds of things from soothsayers and black magic, to chopping down trees during war, to unusual rituals around unidentified murder victims. So when I first read it my initial thought was, “what the heck?” and then “I don’t get it” and then, “what does this have to do with me or my bat mitzvah?” But with a little help from the rabbi, some guidance from and some parental advice, I realized that this portion is about judging, and this, I know something about.

My portion gives judges three pieces of important advice. They are:
• Don’t favor the rich or poor
• Don’t take a bribe, and
• Pursue justice, justly
I would like to think that I practice all three. As for not favoring the rich or poor, my Mizvah project focused on helping feed hungry kids in America. This has shown me first hand not to consider myself any better than anyone else simply because I have enough food to put on my table. Especially in today’s unstable economy, I have learned that people from all walks of life can find themselves without enough money for food.
As for not taking bribes – well I’m only 12, what do I really know about that? But I can say with confidence that I never would try to bribe or influence the judges unfairly at my dance competitions.

The most important advice is the last one which in Hebrew is Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof which I recited in the first torah portion today. The scholars wonder why the word Tzedek, justice, is repeated twice. One response is that it is not enough to pursue justice but you have to do it justly.

Over the past few years I have had many experiences of both being a judge and being judged. In my last two years of middle school I have learned not to quickly judge others. I have found that I need to use my own judgement about people and not be swayed by gossip or rumors. This is not always so easy as a teenager. It is easy to get caught up in wanting to fit in by going along with the popular opinion. I am proud that I can stand up for what I believe in and feel confident in my actions.

For the past 5 years I have been on a dance competition team where a group of judges evaluates our team performances and scores us against the other teams. This year I competed my first solo dance performance. This was the first time that I was alone on stage being judged independently (which was great practice for today). As Shoftim discusses, judges should be fair and impartial. There were times when I felt I was judged justly and other times, maybe not so much. But rather than let the judges scores discourage me, I use their feedback to strive to improve my skills and try harder the next time.

If there is one thing you take away from today’s torah portion, always remember to judge others justly. If someone wrongs you, confront it and deal with it fairly rather than seeking revenge or staying angry. Remember: tzedek tzedek tirdof!

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