My brother had a bar mitzvah service,
and my 2 brothers,
and now is our turn.
Like every bat mitzvah girl we were asked to prepare a dvar torah for our big day. The instructions from Rabbi Elyse: connect your parsha to your personal modern life.
Our parsha talks about laws related to sacrifices. As Israelis, especially a week before yom hazikaron- the Israeli Remembrance Day for fallen soldiers and victims of terror, we can’t not think about those people. Our modern sacrifice as a country are the people we lost from war and terror. This is the price we pay for living in this land. Going to the army, is knowing that you are willing to sacrifice your life for your country. Our friends vowed to the country and literaly said that they are willing to give their lives for this land. we will say the same words a few months from now, as our friends said in different times this year, as our parents said years ago. Trumpeldor said 96 years ago: “its good to die for our country”. Yair Lapid corrected him and said last year: “it’s good to live for our country”. We hope, that our kids wouldn’t have to repeat the vow for willing to die for the country, that our kids will embrace Yair Lapids quote. but in our lifetime reality, to create a future, we have to make these sacrifices.
As Israelis, we chose to speak in our bat mitzvah, this happy day, about something that is sad. And honestly, as Israelis- this is our reality. It’s always there. Growing up in Israel is having a great, happy life, but with a shadow of war and pain. Its running to the shelter but laughing the whole time. It’s just a part of life.
This is a part of our life, but not our whole life. We want to show you, on our bat mitzvah, another part of the picture. So lets go a step back, who are we?
I am Hadas, Israeli, love, art and hope. That was my answer a year ago when I was asked to describe myself in 5 words only- to take a second to think about my identity. Sapir and I were asked this question last year, while an interview for the shinshinim program. We never imagined that the same program will add a whole word to our sentence, a whole part for both of our identities.
If you would’ve asked me last year, I would think that there are two totally separate worlds that exist- the Jewish world and my world. These worlds would meet just in special occasions in the synagogue. If I continue with the metaphor, I can say that me and Judaism were these really really, distance friends that you just text hag sameah in holidays and never talk to until the next holidays.
The Jewish world, that was totally disconnected from my world, used a vocabulary like “Torah” and “parsha”. While in my vocabulary there were words like “magniv”- cool, or “ahla”- great. I felt like the Jewish world only belongs to the Orthodox community in Israel or to the Bible lesson I had in high school once a week.
When Rabbi Elyse asked us just a month ago to write this dvar bat mitzvah and specifically asked us to take the story of the parsha and relate it to our own life, I finally realized that Torah and parsha, do relate to my life. The Torah is a part of my world. Judaism can be a part of my identity, even though I am not Orthodox and I am defiantly not in my Bible lesson right now. I learnt that Judaism can be modern, can relate to me.
I learnt that I can say Torah in the same sentence of the word magniv- cool.
I learnt to add my portion to my playlist on the phone and listen to it on the subway next to the singers I love.
I learnt that Judaism doesn’t have a specific dress code, or behavior, I learnt that I can be myself in the Judaism.
I learnt that Kabbalat Shabbat can be fun. Services can be fun. Synagogue can be fun.
I learnt that I can be a part of the congregation, not just as a number in the crowd but a meaningful part.
I learnt that there are things I like about Judaism and things that I don’t- and that’s totally ok.
I learnt to add to my wardrobe a kipah collection, and to like it.
And I learnt to answer to my friends’ question: “why are you wearing a kipa” very proudly.
I learnt that when it comes to Judaism, there isn’t one way to do it- and that is actually all the beauty of it.
I learnt to ask questions about Judaism, to talk about the things that I feel are not ok with it, to deal with problems and find solutions- and this is actually encouraged.
So from being this really really distance friend, Judaism and I had a huge process this year, and now we are not only good friends, but the kind of friend you are so close with that I know not only its strength, but also weaknesses. So close that I can say out loud when it did something wrong. So close, that I know that it doesn’t matter what we will go through, we will always be together.
Sapir: Israeli, optimistic, joyful, and friendship. That was my initial response to the 5 word question. Back then I did not know how fast a person’s core values and most distinctive characteristics can be changed.
There is one literary piece that I love. It’s called “nitzoz hayoter” written by S. Izhar.
“I want to look in two definitions that describe two life styles, one verses the other: the automatic life one hand and the autonomous life on the other hand. The automatic life: life is advancing without the need to ponder or to decide new decisions. The world is seen as a pattern- the next move is predictable, the risks are calculated, it’s almost like living in an insurance company.
The autonomous life: life that from time to time a person needs to re-check his rout, and to determine what the right direction is. This life is less stable; you can’t know where will you go, a person is required to define over and over again what does he desire and how can he get it.”
This piece led me in my high school years through the dilemmas I had. Should I put my efforts in school or in hobbies? Should I do a shinshin year rather than going straight to the army?
it might have been easier to live the automatic life, to just major in Physics, give up on my hobbies, go to the army right away to a position that will help me have a good career.
The dilemma of having a Bat Mitzvah didn’t ever occur to me since in my previous world it’s not even mentioned as an option. I chose the first meaningful change in my life track thanks to City Shul. In Israel I wasn’t exposed to the Reform world. I didn’t know that men and women can sit side by side; I didn’t know that it’s possible to look at Judaism as a colorful culture based on so many values that now I share.
Thanks to all the discussions with the Rabbi about the meaning of religion, thanks to the many adults nights, thanks to each and every MODIM moment, and more than everything- thanks to this year in which I came into your world and you just embraced me and were so willing to show me what have I missed all these years. Thanks to all of the above- I am standing here today, knowing already I made the right decision.
Here we are in May. Sadly, soon I will go back to Israel. The “ShinShin” title is going to be taken off, and soon enough I will be entering new route in life- adulthood. Although I am coming back to the same city, and same home, I am not coming back as the same Sapir. The place of Judaism in my life will have to find itself again in my new route. One thing I can tell you for sure- after I found a place for Judaism in my life here, I am not going to let it go and disappear so easily…
I do not have enough word to describe how much I thank you for opening my eyes to your amazing world of City Shul.
Today I say with big pride the answer to the 5 word question- Sapir, Israeli, optimistic, joyful, and Jewish. Hadas, Israeli, love, art and Jewish.
And who knows where life is going to take us? Maybe in a few years we are going to change one word or two in our answers, but until then, all we can guarantee is that we are going to live our lives in the way we find right, after re-checking the rout, and determining what the right direction is, and of course with the help of people to light our way and guide us.
Toda Rabbi- superwoman- Goldstein, who inspires us while being an amazing role model, in so many different ways, if we are talking in terms of our Jewish identity, our female identity, and just generally, shaping us and helping us grow as individuals. Holding our hand and being patient (really patient) and incredibly supporting in this whole Jewish journey. We are proud to have parts of our personality that we took from you.
Toda Nadia- our-BFF- Moldaver- for always supporting, believing in us and motivating us. For becoming a huge part of our lives, that we love so much. And of course- for all the food!!
Toda to our host- can’t-believe-that-they-managed-to-feed-us- families, for truly being our family here, in the full definition of the word (except the blood relativeness). We wish there was a word to say how much we appreciate you, but there isn’t. We love you.
Toda Tania- our-mom- Lewis, for being there when we are sad, for being there when we are happy, for being there when we are excited, for being there when we are frustrated, for being there when we are hungry, for just being there.
Toda Rivka- so-cool-for-shul- Campbell, for just being you- so special, smart and funny, and always making us smile.
Toda Tina- thanks-God-its-shabbat- again- Tee, for adding another person that we love to our list.
Toda City Shul-you know who you are-staff, for making this whole place and community that we love so much happen and be so special and successful.
Toda to you, the City Shul- much more than a-community, for being our friends, our family, both teachers and students, for letting us to get to know you amazing people, and for being open to knowing us. Each one of you inspires us, and we are so happy we got the opportunity to have you guys as part of our lives. Thank you for not laughing when we mess up with the English, thank you for the little smile, the little conversation, thank you for your special openness to learn, and thank you for being so special for us.