Noa Marks' Bat Mitzvah

Hello! My name is Noa Marks. I am a seventh grader at The Brandeis School of San Francisco, and I am so excited to celebrate my Bat Mitzvah at Congregation Beth Sholom this Shabbat!

Becoming a Bat Mitzvah has been an unexpectedly enjoyable journey. I have learned so much about the Shabbat service and the Torah service. I especially enjoyed learning to sing the prayers and to chant Torah using the correct tropes, all the while treating my family to my many practice sessions.

It has been challenging fitting in my Bat Mitzvah preparation with my many other activities and interests - lots and lots of soccer, surfing, lots and lots of homework, skiing, and our puppy, Khaya. Despite these time consuming activities, my studies and preparation went very well. I can’t believe that in only a few days I will present all my hard work from the last many months and become a Jewish adult!

At my Bat Mitzvah I will be reading from the Torah and sharing my thoughts on the weekly parsha, Parshat Emor. In Emor, G-d instructs Moses to tell the Israelites who can be a Kohen (or priest) and what requirements apply to the Kohanim. I have been thinking quite a bit about why G-d created these requirements for the priests, what qualifications should be expected of priests today, and what my expectations are for my own conduct. I hope you will join me this Shabbat to hear my thoughts on Emor!

As I look forward to my Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat, I am grateful for the support of so many people. I would like to thank Noa Bar, for helping me learn to chant Torah, and for guiding me with her beautiful voice through learning all of the prayers. I would also like to thank Rabbi Micah Hyman and Rabbi Dan Ain, for inspiring me and helping me with my Dvar Torah. Thank you so much to Beth Sholom's amazing staff for making my Bat Mitzvah possible. Thank you to my family, friends, and the Beth Sholom community who will celebrate this simcha with me. And, finally, I am so grateful for the loving support of my parents, brother, and puppy.

Emor – Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23

Facebook_CoverDesign_EmorThis week’s reading builds upon last week’s distinction between the Priestly Torah, which focuses on the priestly views of ritual (as distinct from those of the masses), and the Holiness Code, which interweaves the priestly elements of ritual with popular customs.

What further distinguishes Chapters 21 and 22 of Leviticus from the rest of the Holiness Code (Chapters 17–26) is a primary concern for the priesthood rather than for the Israelite people as a whole. There is an internal symmetry wherein the code for ordinary priests (21:1-9) and the code for the High Priest (21:10-15) both begin with funerary regulations and conclude with marital restrictions.

Parashat Emor also addresses the annual callings to holiness: a weekly sabbatical retreat; an annual paschal offering on the 14th of Nisan as well as the seven day cycle of Pesach (Passover) beginning on the 15th of Nisan; the gathering and elevating of the Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover to its culmination in Shavuot; the primal cry of the shofar on the 1st of Tishrei for Rosh Hashanah; followed by a fast day on the 10th of Tishrei; culminating with a seven-day festival for dwelling in booths while dancing with the four species on the 15th of Tishrei and then the after-party of the Eighth day of Assembly marking the pilgrimage route home with Shemini Atzeret.

By contrast, the first section of Emor speaks to laws pertaining to Temple service of the High Priest.

All in all, there is something about sacred time that speaks to each of us differently, yet the sacred somehow finds a way to take place in our lives through the Jewish calendar and the synagogue.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's stark artwork is inspired by Emor's focus on separation, especially as it pertains to distinctions between pure/impure or sacred/profane. The Israelite approach to sacrifice, illness, hygiene, sexual biology, food, agriculture, and more is informed by a severe dualism that makes sense in context; nonetheless, it is impossible not to feel empathy for those members of the tribe who are cut off from their people because they are deemed taboo or impure.Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Emor – Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23

Facebook_CoverDesign_EmorThis week’s reading builds upon last week’s distinction between the Priestly Torah, which focuses on the priestly views of ritual (as distinct from those of the masses), and the Holiness Code, which interweaves the priestly elements of ritual with popular customs.

What further distinguishes Chapters 21 and 22 of Leviticus from the rest of the Holiness Code (Chapters 17–26) is a primary concern for the priesthood rather than for the Israelite people as a whole. There is an internal symmetry wherein the code for ordinary priests (21:1-9) and the code for the High Priest (21:10-15) both begin with funerary regulations and conclude with marital restrictions.

Parashat Emor also addresses the annual callings to holiness: a weekly sabbatical retreat; an annual paschal offering on the 14th of Nisan as well as the seven day cycle of Pesach (Passover) beginning on the 15th of Nisan; the gathering and elevating of the Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover to its culmination in Shavuot; the primal cry of the shofar on the 1st of Tishrei for Rosh Hashanah; followed by a fast day on the 10th of Tishrei; culminating with a seven-day festival for dwelling in booths while dancing with the four species on the 15th of Tishrei and then the after-party of the Eighth day of Assembly marking the pilgrimage route home with Shemini Atzeret.

By contrast, the first section of Emor speaks to laws pertaining to Temple service of the High Priest.

All in all, there is something about sacred time that speaks to each of us differently, yet the sacred somehow finds a way to take place in our lives through the Jewish calendar and the synagogue.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's stark artwork is inspired by Emor's focus on separation, especially as it pertains to distinctions between pure/impure or sacred/profane. The Israelite approach to sacrifice, illness, hygiene, sexual biology, food, agriculture, and more is informed by a severe dualism that makes sense in context; nonetheless, it is impossible not to feel empathy for those members of the tribe who are cut off from their people because they are deemed taboo or impure.Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Emor -- Leviticus 21:1 – 24:23

CoverDesign_EmorIn a candid moment, the renowned American scholar of the Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels (b. 1943), once remarked that her research of these early religious texts taught her something interesting:

These ancient stories in religion speak to our desire. But they move us toward hope.

Where might one experience this correlation between desire and hope that really speaks to us about Judaism as a religion? Is it through interpersonal ethics? Familiar customs? Or, on the other hand, through rituals that deepen the human-divine relationship? Holiness calls out to us, but how and when do we hear the call?

The second section of Emor, literally “speaks out” and addresses us in describing the annual callings to holiness: a weekly sabbatical retreat; an annual paschal offering on the 14th of Nisan as well as the seven day cycle of Pesach (Passover) beginning on the 15th of Nisan; the gathering and elevating of the Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover to its culmination in Shavuot; the primal cry of the shofar on the 1st of Tishrei for Rosh Hashanah; followed by a fast day on the 10th of Tishrei; culminating with a seven-day festival for dwelling in booths while dancing with the four species on the 15th of Tishrei and then the after-party of the Eighth day of Assembly marking the pilgrimage route home with Shemini Atzeret.

By contrast, the first section of Emor speaks to laws pertaining to Temple service of the high priest.

All in all, there is something about sacred time that speaks to each of us differently, yet the sacred somehow finds a way to take place in our lives through the Jewish calendar and the synagogue.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is inspired by the many harsh directives that appear in Parashat Emor, directives that exclude many Israelites (e.g., the deformed, disabled, or sick) from full belonging and that command our ancestors to stone to death various offenders. From Leviticus 24:13-14: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: Take the blasphemer outside the camp, and all who heard shall lean their hands on his head. And the entire community shall stone him." Holiness may call out to us, but in the stratified and severe worldview of our ancestors, it has the voice of a potentate. So, again, with the wrestling! Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Jacob Goode's Bar Mitzvah

JacobGoodeI’m Jacob Goode, a seventh grader at Claire Lilienthal in San Francisco. I enjoy learning, playing baseball and golf, watching the Giants and Warriors, hanging out with my friends and playing video games, and traveling the world with my family. In fact, my family and I have recently returned from a trip to Israel, which has helped put my bar mitzvah in perspective. I have a greater appreciation for our long history.

I am very excited that this Shabbat is my bar mitzvah. This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Emor. The text outlines the Jewish festivals, holy days, and some of the Jewish laws and rituals. Parashat Emor concludes by describing an incident in which a man is accused of blasphemy. The text then provides the principle of lex talionis, "ayin tachat ayin, shein tachat shein" (literally, an "eye for an eye; tooth for a tooth"). I’m looking forward to sharing this day with friends, family, and members of the community, whom I hope shall end Shabbat with good sight and fully dentured.

I’d like to thank my amazing tutor, Noa, who helped me learn this week’s haftarah, the maftir for this week’s Torah portion, the blessings before and after the readings, and the Torah service in such a short time. I’d also like to thank our B'nai Mitzvah Chavurah for their support and friendship. I’d like to thank Rabbis Glazer and Hyman, and my CBS Shabbat School teacher, Elizabeth Andrews. And a very special thanks to my family (the Chikhanis and the Goodes), for being there every step of the way, for always supporting me, encouraging me, and schlepping me to where I wanted to be.