Shabbat shalom everyone.
My Torah portion of Emor focuses on many different things. What interested me the most was the theme of leadership. Judaism has many different models of leadership… rabbi, king, prophet and teacher. The model of leadership found in my portion is the priest, who led the people in worship back then. What’s interesting is that the priest had to be PERFECT in many ways that had very little to do with leadership. He had to LOOK like a leader, without necessarily BEING a leader.
Last fall, I went to a National Young Leaders conference in Washington DC, where I learned all about how to become an effective leader. However, these lessons about leadership had absolutely nothing to do with physical appearance. Instead, I learned that in order to be a strong leader, you need to develop six critical qualities: goal setting, communication, character, teamwork, respect and problem solving.
I also learned that “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.” This advice came in handy as I began preparing for my Bat Mitzvah. At first, as I began my lessons, I was a bit nervous about learning so many new things. But I imagined myself here today, standing in front of all of you, at the end of the process, filled with confidence. And here I am!!
The Torah states that a priest could not serve as a leader when he was injured. I certainly understand why it would be hard to serve as a leader in that condition. I love to dance and play basketball, but when you have a sprained ankle, it’s certainly difficult to do either one of those activities. Believe me, I’ve tried and it’s painful!
A close friend of mine hurt her ankle while dancing last year and couldn’t dance for a very long time. But that didn’t stop her from being a leader at her ballet school. She continued to go to every one of her dance practices even though she had to sit on the side and simply watch. At times, I had to help my friend when she was on crutches at school. Sometimes being disabled, or helping someone who is disabled, can teach us critical lessons about leadership.
Judaism teaches an important lesson, not to judge a book by its cover. In the Talmud it’s worded a little differently: Don’t look at the surface of the flask, but at what’s inside.
There’s another saying from the rabbis, “There’s nothing more whole than a broken heart.” Sometimes when we are injured, we become MORE whole – we learn from our challenges, and we get stronger from the things that make our lives harder.
My grandma Mimi has been an inspiration to me in how she has fought through her many challenges, including having a heart transplant around the time I was born. Back then, she wasn’t even sure she would see me be born, but now here she is at my bat mitzvah! I guess miracles really do come true. Mimi, I suppose you didn’t really need to rush Mom and Dad to have a baby, but I am sure glad you did!
For my mitzvah project, I’ve been trying to help people who are facing different kinds of challenges. During the past year, I’ve collected over $900 by selling “Just Dance” bracelets. I’ll be donating that money toward a scholarship for a disadvantaged child to attend my dance school, Locust Performing Arts Center. I’ll also be donating dance attire and costumes to an organization called “Dancing Dreams”, a dance school for kids with disabilities.
As I become a Bat Mitzvah today, I realize just how many lessons about leadership I’ve learned over the past several months. This reminds me of a quote that has inspired me since I first heard it in Washington DC:
‘What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”
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