Thursday, September 19, 2019
TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Maddie Winarsky on Ki Tavo
I would like to thank everyone who came to my Bat Mitzvah this morning.
In my torah portion, Ki Tavo, Moshe instructed the Israelites to bring the first fruits to G-d as an offering. Moshe also urged the Israelites to thank Hashem for all the good that he has done for them. He also lists the blessings where Hashem will reward the Israelites if they follow the laws of the Torah, and he then lists all the harsh consequences that will overtake them if they abandon his commandments.
One of the most interesting parts of this parsha is the idea of choice.
Moshe clearly explains that the Jewish people have a choice. They can follow Hashem and be a holy nation, or they can suffer. He also says that the Israelites are G-d’s chosen people, but they also must make the choice to follow Hashem.
Moshe clearly laid out BOTH the positives and negatives of following Hashem’s rules. If you choose to follow Hashem, you will be blessed, your land will be fruitful and your enemies will fall. If you choose not to listen to his commandments, then curses will overtake you, you will be returned to slavery, you will have terror, plagues and sickness. These consequences are horrible, but Hashem still gives people a choice about whether or not to follow his instructions.
This parshah relates to my life because there are many important choices that we must make everyday. If you choose to not listen to your parent’s rules, you will get in trouble. If you choose not to study, you will receive bad grades. If you choose not to vote, your voice will not be heard. If you choose not to follow laws, you will be punished.
Another choice that I have made over the past 8 years, is my choice to play the violin. Rabbi Hammerman and I discussed a great deal about the violin and its importance in Jewish culture. It is a fragile instrument that requires a great deal of balance and skill to produce a wonderful sound.
I choose to attend group and private lessons twice a week. I also choose to practice every day so that I can improve my skills. I get to choose what pieces I perform for my solo concerts and by the effort that I put into my practice, I choose how they will sound.
People make simple choices like what to eat for breakfast - cereal or waffles (waffles definitely!) and more important choices like choosing to study torah and follow Hashem. Today, I have made the choice to be a woman on the bimah who read torah. I have chosen to spend time studying and learning these traditions because they are important to me, my family and the Jewish people. I think it is important for both men and women to have the opportunity to study torah and become closer to Hashem. All of my Bat Mitzvah studies have allowed me to feel more connected to Hashem. Now a Bat Mitzvah, I also plan on being a more active member of our Jewish community.
My mitzvah project is called “Hooties for Hearts” where I will be raising money for the Babies Heart Fund, and also donating mini owl plushies at New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Medical Center (Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York) to children in the hospital who are having heart surgery. The reason this is my project is that when I was four years old, I was diagnosed with a heart condition called SVT, Supraventricular Tachycardia. This condition is where someone’s heart beats suddenly at a super rapid speed, which is very dangerous. Three years ago, I had cryoablation surgery at Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital to correct the problem. At the hospital after my surgery, my parents gave me a stuffed animal owl that I named Hootie. I decided to name my project “Hooties for Hearts” where I will be donating owl toys to other kids who are having surgery at the hospital. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to the Babies Heart Fund, more information can be found in your program.