Emma Marden Bat Mitzvah Speech

“Shabbat Shalom.” I thank all of you (Friends and Family) for joining us today. I want to share a little bit about my Bat Mitzvah experience with you.

HOW I PREPARED FOR MY BAT MITZVAH

Preparing for my Bat Mitzvah has been a long journey. I started thinking of my Bat Mitzvah in the summer of 2018. I had no idea what this was going to be like. Partly because I have only been to two Reform B’nay Mitzvahs in my life, one of them was my brother’s.

You would think, I already know what having a Bat Mitzvah means. But really, I had no clue what to do. I recall while my brother was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah two years ago, I was busy thinking of the celebration.

Even though going through the process of having a Bat Mitzvah is hard, a couple of things came in handy. Such as my frequent Friday service attendance made it easier for me to learn some of the prayers, like the V’ahavta or Shema and attending Hebrew school earlier in my childhood helped me understand the Jewish tradition/Culture. All in all, preparing for a Bat Mitzvah is a lot harder than it seems. Now I’m going to be honest with all of you, reading Hebrew isn’t my strong suit either.

I must admit I faced a number of challenges during my Bat Mitzvah preparation. These challenges were reading from the Tikkun which is the book I learned most of my Torah Portion, memorizing the chanting of the Torah Portions and giving up alot of my free time.

In the end I am very proud of what I have accomplished. I would say not everything is challenging, there are some fun parts. (Like looking for a dress), thinking of sharing such a day with my friends and family.

WHAT WAS MY MITZVAH PROJECT

As part of having a Bat Mitzvah, you have to have a mitzvah project. A mitzvah project is the fulfillment of God’s commandments. Mitzvah project is also known as Tikkun Olam – which is a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or repair the world. It is the most meaningful thing you can do in honor of your Bat/Bar- Mitzvah.

My mitzvah project involved working with elderly and the sick. I chose this kind of project because I thought what’s better than having company to cheer you up when your a little under the weather! However, I did not think about how this project would impact my availability with other activities such as participating in school soccer, basketball, lacrosse, Hebrew school, Kumon, the Vermont Youth Orchestra, and the many more activities with which I am involved. Just thinking of it I get tired!. But It eventually occurred to me that the only way I could engage myself was to help others by sharing the things I love. And one of the things I like to do is to make people feel better.

It so happened that we had a dear friend who wasn’t feeling well. I gave my mother the idea of taking our friend food every weekend as it might make him feel better. It has now been almost 4 months that every sunday I deliver food to our friend. However this did not satisfy my needs as I needed to interact with the people I was helping. Luckily enough the Rabbi came up with the idea of a “Belief Project”.

“A Belief Project” is where I had to interview relatives and friends about their beliefs. Some of the Questions I asked people were;

  • How it was for them growing up Jewish?
  • What was it like when they were my age?
  • And if they could go back to being a kid, what would be something you would change?

When people say with age comes wisdom, they are not kidding. Hearing everyone’s experience made me realize that history repeats itself. Some of the issues encountered 50 years ago such as anti semitism are still occurring in this very day. This may not resonate to all you adults, but experiencing antisemitism or racism for the first time as an 11 or 12 year old, was quite shocking. And although I may be experiencing antisemitism for the first time, my Belief Project has made me very aware that there are people who I can turn to who have real life experiences.

All the people that I interviewed learned from their mistakes and many of them mentioned that, they had one or two things they would like to change if they had a chance to go back and correct things.

This message has taught me to be mindful of how I live my life and try to do the right thing.

Though we might have many other things that fill our time, if we all take a moment out of our schedule to do something good for a friend, a neighbor, someone who needs help and listen. It is something spiritually rewarding, not only does the act make you content, but also makes the person your working with feel better! I think that something we can all benefit from, is to enrich ourselves with stories your grandparents, parents and friends all of whom, have a story to share.

Which brings me into my torah portion. My mitzvah project, and my Torah portion go hand in hand. Both, basically have an underlying meaning of “Loving thy Neighbor as you love yourself.” I interpreted that by; if you get to know your neighbors, and learn to care for them, you are likely not to defame, gossip, or put them down, in any way. And even more than that, you are more likely to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.

LEVITICUS 14: 1-32:17

My Torah portion is called Metzora. Mezora discusses childbirth, leprosy, diseases, fungus and mold on houses and the ritual of purification. I realize this is not the most exciting subject. But it is what we got!!

To give you All a prospective, in ancient times a person with skin disease such as leprosy or bodily discharges meant that person was impure and, consequently, unholy. Therefore such a person was excluded from the community for a certain amount of time. In order to reenter society, the person had to present himself/herself to the priest to determine their fitness to integrate back into the community.

What is the importance of talking about skin disease and fungus today?

There are many different ways people interpret what the fungus and diseases symbolize. There is a famous Rabbi, that interrupted the Torah portion metaphorically and spiritually. In the book of Numbers Chapter 12 Miriam and Erin gossip about their brother Moses. Miriam ends up getting a skin disease.The Rabbi said clearly the Torah associates the skin disease as a punishment for gossip (Lashon H’ara) and Slander. Whether you believe it or not, it is important to talk about Jewish values related to speech. Speech is such an important thing to humans, because it’s how we communicate, and it’s how we learn. Now even though some of those words can cause problems, Judaism teaches people not to malign, gossip or slander another.

This makes me think of how social media affects the world live in today. Where we may not think before we write something hurtful to another person or comment on another person’s post negatively. This is not any different from what Miriam did to Moses. The Rabbi say, when you gossip you kill three people: the person you are talking about, the person to whom you are talking to, and yourself. One who engages in this kind of behavior brings hurt, pain and separation into the world.

There is a famous story, about a woman who gossips and talks badly about other people. And so she goes to this Rabbi and says “I want to change my ways, how can I do that?” The Rabbi tells her to go get feathers from a bird, and throw them up in the air on a windy day. So the woman goes and gathers a bunch of feathers from a bird, and does as the Rabbi Instructed. Than goes back to the Rabbi and says “what now?” The Rabbi says “Now go and retrieve all those feathers that you have just thrown into the air.” “But that would be impossible,” says the woman. “They are probably long gone, and I could never find them.” Of course the Rabbi knew this, so his response was: “Gossiping is like throwing feathers into the wind. You can never retrieve the words you spoke!! Especially with the world we live in now, with Social Media. What you say on the internet, is like the modern feathers of the world. Once the features spread, they can never be retrieved.

What is my Jewish Plans in the Future?

My future plans as a jewish adult is to continue in the religious school whether that’s helping out with the little kids or furthering my learning of Judaism. The religious school has done so much for me as a Jew by teaching me my traditions and helping to start to understand the reasons and significance behind those traditions. And it has taught me to be a better person and moral values that I cherris to this very day. For example, I learned what it meant to be a Mensch in the 4th grade, learned to sing the Hebrew alphabet in kindergarten. A bunch of these things have helped me to be the person that I am today. I want to give back and help future B’nay Mitzvah kids have an amazing experience as I did in the Hebrew School.

Thank you

Thank you All for taking the time out of your schedule and celebrating this special day with me. Especially For those of you who traveled all the way from, Italy, Sweden, UK, Boston and Atlanta to be here with me. Special thanks to the people that made this occasion possible. I know I could not have done it without the help of a number of people. I thank the hebrew teachers that helped me begin my jewish learning journey . Thank you Morah Judy for helping me master my Aliyahs. I also want to thank Rabbi Edleson for helping with my Dvar Torah. Hopefully I met the expectations for your first Bat Mitzvah here at Temple Sinai. I thank Dad for listening to me read through my Torah portion and telling me to slow down and to articulate. And mum for reminding me every 5 minutes to practice. And thank you grams and my brother for supporting me. Thank you to the people that worked with Mum in getting ready for the occasion.

Shabbat Shalom