Thursday, September 29, 2016

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Annabelle Raz on Ki Tavo

Shabbat Shalom.

Thank you all for coming here today.

This week’s portion is Ki Tavo.  Ki Tavo literally means when you arrive. The parsha tells us about how Israel is preparing to cross into the Promised Land, in what will be a new beginning for the nation.  This Shabbat also begins our preparation for the new year, and as for me, I am concluding my preparation of becoming a Bat Mitzvah and taking responsibility for my choices and their appropriate consequences.  Let’s not forget that this is also going to be an exciting year where a new president is elected, so “change is really in the air… history is happening” as mentioned in this year’s hit musical, Hamilton.   

Back in the desert, the people of Israel face big changes as well.  They have been wandering for 40 years behind the leadership of Moshe.  At this point in the story, we learn that Moshe will not be allowed to enter the land of Israel with the rest of the nation that he led to freedom. 

 Following the Hamilton and presidential theme, This story reminds me of another great leader who led his people to freedom over the course of many years - our first president George Washington.  

Unlike Moshe, George Washington decides on his own behalf that he can no longer lead his nation as President.  

Like our leaders, Today’s Parsha deals with tough choices and their consequences; Blessings and curses.   

Both nations need to move on… and their leaders... “need to teach them how to say Goodbye.”
For both nations, the world is “turning upside down”. Our leaders make decisions that determine our nation’s future.  Imagine if George Washington had never stepped down, our country may have looked more like north Korea, or Syria, then the amazing country we live in today.  

Now picture if  Moshe had not stepped down, what our nation would look like today?  There are personal interests that favor Moshe staying as leader, and yet the overall good of the nation as it enters a new beginning overcomes Moshe’s own interests.  Moshe was instrumental in teaching the nation how to transition from the desert to the Promised land and to learn the rules of living in partnership with G-d.  

As we prepare for our new year, we are reminded that under the leadership of Moshe the nation arrives to the promised land.   They are split up to stand on two separate mountains- the mountain of Blessing and the mountain of curses.  

They are told the mitzvot (commandments) that they must follow in the new land.  Along with the mitzvot they are told the consequences that they will receive if they do not follow the commandments.  The curses get pretty nasty... (but, I won’t get into the graphic details)
The blessings are listed for if you keep your obligations. You will be blessed in the city, and in the field;  The fruit of your womb, the food of your fields,  and the food of your livestock;  Blessed is your basket and your barn.  As a new year enters and as I enter Bat Mitzvah, I understand the obligations I am now to face, but I also appreciate how blessed I am to experience this challenge and celebration.

All these actions represent a form of making an agreement with G-d. As a Bat Mitzvah, I am able to take this important story and relate it to my personal life. I have made many commitments in the past, some are easy to keep, some not so easy.
As Jewish people we are asked to make bikkurim (offerings of gratitude) to G-d.  Our ancestors offered G-d 1/10 of their first fruits every time they went to the Temple.  We must always share our blessings with others in a meaningful way and allow for Tzedakah or מעשים טובים.

For my bat mitzvah project I also have made a commitment that is very meaningful to me.

I have recently learned that one in five children in Connecticut go to bed hungry. Over the summer, I have volunteered to provide food and school supplies at Inspirica, a homeless shelter for families.  Inspired by what I experienced at Inspirica, I decided to create a program called “Bookends” to provide new or gently used books to children in needs.  

To deliver these books to kids who need them, I partnered with 3square, a program of the jewish federation.  3square addresses the  problem of hunger at Rogers School in Stamford, by providing supplemental food on the weekends to children in need.  Please contact me if you would like to support this project over the course of this year.  

Rosh Hashana is just around the corner.  Entering a new year, we are also like the Israelites and early Americans. ...So much possibility,... So much uncertainty, and its all about the choices we make. “History has its eyes on us.”

Thank you all so much for sharing my special day with me.

 “Look around, look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now.” !!!!!!!!

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