Jessica's D'var Torah
October 12, 2002
Shabbat Shalom! I am glad you could all join me on this special day when I begin the process of becoming a Jewish adult. My Haftorah is from the book of Isaiah. My Torah Portion is Parshat Noach which is from the book of Beraishit. The parsha is about Noah, the flood, the ark, the animals, and the rainbow. Maybe you've heard the story. Three ideas caught my attention as I studied this parsha. The first one discusses why G-d decided to destroy the earth specifically with a flood. The second one has to do with the similarities between leaving the Ark and becoming a Bat Mitzvah. The third compares Noah's individuality and righteousness to my life and my own responsibilities.
Why did G-d decide to destroy the world with a flood instead of with a plague or anything else? This question is interesting to me because it is such a huge part of the story and nobody ever discusses it. The answer is explained by the following parable. A king invited penniless, mute people to his kingdom. They praised him without words. The king wanted more praise so he brought in beggars who COULD talk. However, they didn't praise the king at all. Now the king wanted to bring back the mute people who had praised him only with signs because he now appreciated them. This parable helps explain why g-d chose to destroy the Earth with a flood. G-d made the waters. The waters praised G-d with their waves and without words. G-d wanted more praise so He made the people. However, the people didn't praise G-d at all and in fact they were sinners. Now G-d wanted to bring back the waters because they praised him, and G-d became more appreciative of the waters. That is one explanation of why G-d chose to flood the earth, but there is another. The second explanation is because water represents purity and cleansing in many ways throughout Jewish history and tradition. This may be a reason why G-d destroyed the earth with water rather than a fire or an earthquake or a plague.
The second point that caught my attention is that there are similarities between leaving the ark and becoming a Bat Mitzvah. Everyone on the ark had safety and protection from the flood. My home and my family have been safety and protection for me. But now at my Bat Mitzvah I am slowly "leaving the ark." I am starting to take on responsibilities that will prepare me to go out on my own, just like everyone in the ark had to do after the flood. As of today, I am beginning the process of becoming a Jewish adult.
The third idea that I have considered in this parsha has to do with Noah's individuality and his righteousness. Noah was an individual in that he was the only man who was loyal to G-d in his generation. He stayed righteous even though he was around bad people who made fun of him for it. G-d recognized Noah's virtue and so He chose Noah and his family to build the ark. Noah's individuality is equally important today and for me as a Bat Mitzvah. I shouldn't do what everyone else is doing if it is wrong. Instead, I should do good things like Tikkun Olam. Tikkun Olam literally means rebuilding the world but figuratively it means doing good deeds and helping others. In preparation for my Bat Mitzvah, I had the opportunity to do some Tikkun Olam service at Kids in Crisis, a temporary shelter for kids who have troubles in their families and have to leave home for a while. I spent every Wednesday afternoon there this past summer. I had a lot of fun helping out and playing with the kids. This is one main responsibility of becoming a Jewish adult; being able to give to the community by helping people.
Today I am taking my first steps toward becoming a Jewish adult. I know that this is not the end of the process, but only the beginning and I am glad you could all join my family and me to celebrate with us.
I feel like I have just won an Academy Award and I came prepared with a speech. First I would like to say mazel tov to Mikaela and the Zwyer Family. It has been nice sharing this occasion with you.
Second, I would like to thank everyone at The Conservative Synagogue who has helped me prepare for my Bat Mitzvah. Next I would like to thank Mr. S. and all of my teachers at Bi-Cultural Day School as well as my teachers at Solomon Schechter in St. Louis.
A big thanks goes to my sister Hannah. Your patience and understanding have been incredible these past few months. I don't know HOW I would have done it without you. I love you and I can't wait to help you with YOUR Bat Mitzvah.
Finally, I want to thank my mom and dad. You have both helped me in studying for my Bat Mitzvah. This definitely would've been harder if I didn't have you to get me through it. Mom, it was fun having you learn Torah trop with me and then, together, figuring out some trop notes from my Torah portion that I didn't know. Also, thank you for helping me with my D'var Torah and for making all of the arrangements for this weekend. Dad, thank you also for helping me with my D'var Torah, for doing all of the computer work, and for helping to keep Mom sane while she planned my Bat Mitzvah. I love you both very much.