The Adult B’nai Mitzvah Class held it’s group celebration during a festive service on December 15. This is the second installment of the seven drashot.
Two themes are prevalent in Parshat Miketz and the Haftarah which we will read today: rededication and new beginnings. New beginnings are often preceded by a journey, which we also find in the sacred readings. I want to share with you just a little bit, a bissle, of my personal Jewish journey.
In both the Torah and the haftarach readings there are journeys, physical and emotional, and each relates to new beginnings. The haftarah details one part of Zechariah’s dream that influenced him to exhort the Jewish people, who had only recently returned from a journey of exile in Babylonia, to rededicate themselves and resume the building of the new temple — definitely a new beginning for them.
Parshat Mi’ketz features new beginnings for the sons of Jacob, who make two journeys to Egypt in search of food. Miraclously, it is their brother who acts as their savior, although not without a few twists and turns. All of them, but particularly Joseph, undergo emotional journeys and in his case, a very wrenching one. He rejects continuing on a path to seek revenge. Instead he chooses to rededicate himself to moving past his hurt and pain and to reconnect with what is truly important.
My personal journey toward a deeper experience of Judaism began about four years ago when I began to study Mussar, Jewish ethics, with Rabbi Mark. Starting then and heightening the process during these past two-years of bat-mitzvah study, the journey has brought me closer to living the ethical values of Judaism and a deeper observance of Shabbat.
Although I didn’t start off yearning to be a bat-mitzvah, I noticed somewhere along the journey that my level of observance was changing a bit. Yes, I have learned a great deal from the b’nai mitzvah classes where we studied and discussed readings on such topics as the history and format of synagogue service, the siddur and certain prayers, such as the Kedusah and the Amidah. But my personal growth has primarily resulted from daily Mussar practice and getting closer to the spirit, emotion and observances of Shabbat.
Along this journey I also experienced a renewed appreciation for my sister and brother b’nai mitzvah students — listening to them discuss the parashah, remarking at the progress made in their Hebrew reading and trope chanting, I have come to realize that to become a daughter of commandment, a bat-mitzvah, is to join a long history of Jews who daily seek to find ways to bring light and love into the world through compassion, loving-kindness, service to others, social action, and other mitzvoth. Just as one of the lessons of Chanuka is rededication, I look on these past two years of study and the place I’m standing right now as one of rededication — to my evolving relationship to Judaism and to my B’nai Emunah community.
In ending I want to thank my husband Martin for his support and quiet acceptance of my near daily morning davening over the past several months. And especially, I thank Rabbi Mark and Cantor Linda for the dedication and time spent guiding us, and all of my b’nai mitzvah peers who have made possible this journey to a new beginning. The journey is not over for me….but it’s much further along.