Gabriela Bernstein's Bat Mitzvah

Hello! My name is Gabriela (Gabi) Bernstein, and I am a seventh grader at the Brandeis School of San Francisco as well as a life-long member of Congregation Beth Sholom. I enjoy reading, writing, art projects, theater stage design and listening to Broadway show tunes. I also perform with a singing group called Trebles at my school.

On Saturday May 26, I will be called to the Torah as a Bat Mitzvah. I will be chanting from Parashat Naso, in the book of Numbers. The material is a giant pile of topics, all smushed together into one monster Torah portion.

The reading starts with a Levite census and details about their Tabernacle duties. We go on to learn what to do with someone who has leprosy (simple: banish them) and then, we learn about the Nazarites and their duties and abstentions. Finally, we get to the Priestly Blessing and the offerings that Tribal leaders brought to the Tabernacle. This is a lot to cover in one Torah portion, but there was one topic that stood out to me more than the others. You’ll have to come to services this Shabbat to find out which one it was!

I have found myself enjoying this process of learning trope and studying Torah. I’m excited (and nervous) for my family and friends to see me chant from the Torah and become a Bat Mitzvah.

I realize that this process would have been impossible without the support of so many. I want to thank Rabbi Batshir Torchio for guiding me on this journey over the past year, helping me learn not only to chant Torah and Haftorah, but also to find meaning in these texts. I’m also grateful to Rebecca Goodman and all the Rabbis and educators who have taught me at the preschool and religious school through the years.  Thanks as well to the staff at Congregation Beth Sholom for making this weekend possible! Thank you to my older siblings, Rafi and Daniela, for their constant support and encouragement; it was comforting for me to know they had also been through the B’nai Mitzvah process. Last but not least, thank you to my parents for being clear about how important being Jewish (and having a Bat Mitzvah) is and not letting me forget it with (gentle) nagging and (loving) speeches.

Naso – Numbers 4:21 – 7:89

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A key community building lesson I learned from Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) during the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel, is the importance of Belonging – a sense that “this is mine,” a feeling of ownership and full inclusion in a group that allows “a community to become part of the definition of one’s personal identity.”

This sense of true belonging is something the Children of Israel yearn for during their ongoing journey, and the twelve tribes attempt to retain connection between one another without sacrificing the need to do so on their own terms and in their own particular manner.

Offerings are made to inaugurate the altar by each of the tribes. While these offerings appear to be identical, each day is described on its own terms. The offerings that each of us make to bolster community will always be unique.

This week’s parsha actually begins at the moment of completion of the grand census taking in the Sinai desert. Parashat Nasotallies those who will be doing the planning and organizing [avodat ha’masah] of transporting the Tabernacle. It is this organization that enables entry into moments of deeper self-reflection [avodat ha’avodah]. Various laws are also revealed including the ritual of the wayward wife, known as sotah, as well as the spiritual practice of the nazir.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: The sotah ritual requires a wife suspected of infidelity to drink a potion which will determine her guilt or innocence. This week’s illustration depicts the profile of a woman accused and awaiting the verdict. In our more feminist era, the ritual is controversial, rightly condemned for its severe patriarchal framing. It is worth noting, though, that the outcome would almost certainly render an accused woman innocent. That’s a far sight better than public execution, which was the usual punishment for suspected adultery in ancient times. What today appears inhumane and sexist may have been a “progressive” invention in its own day. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Naso -- Numbers 4:21 – 7:89

Facebook_CoverDesign_NasoAnother key community building lesson I learned from Dr. Sarale Shadmi-Wortman (Oranim College of Education) during the Rabin Bay Area Leadership Mission to Israel is the importance of Belonging – a sense that "this is mine," a feeling of ownership and full inclusion in a group that allows "a community to become part of the definition of one's personal identity."

This sense of true belonging is something the Children of Israel yearn for during their ongoing journey, and the twelve tribes attempt to retain connection between one another without sacrificing the need to do so on their own terms and in their own particular manner. Offerings are made to inaugurate the altar by each of the tribes. While these offerings appear to be identical, each day is described on its own terms. The offerings that each of us make to bolster community will always be unique.

This week's parsha actually begins at the moment of completion of the grand census taking in the Sinai desert. Parashat Naso tallies those who will be doing the planning and organizing [avodat ha’masah] of transporting the Tabernacle. It is this organization that enables entry into moments of deeper self-reflection [avodat ha’avodah]. Various laws are also revealed including the ritual of the wayward wife, known as sotah, as well as the spiritual practice of the nazir.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's illustration depicts the profile of a woman accused and awaiting the priest's verdict. The sotah ritual requires a wife suspected of infidelity to drink a potion which will determine her guilt or innocence. In our more feminist and gender-aware era, the ritual is controversial, rightly condemned for its severe patriarchal framing. It is worth noting, though, that the outcome would almost certainly render an accused woman innocent. That's a far sight better than public execution, which was the usual punishment for suspected adultery in ancient times. What today appears inhumane and sexist may have been a progressive invention in its own day. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Gabriel Rogow-Patt's Bar Mitzvah

Facebook_GabrielRogowPattShalom. My name is Gabriel Bram Rogow-Patt. I am in 7th grade at The Brandeis School of San Francisco. I enjoy a good intellectual challenge. I like coding, playing video games with friends, solving puzzles, and learning trivia.

My bar mitzvah is coming up this Shabbat, and I’m excited, but also nervous. I will read from the Torah and then share my thoughts on Parashat Naso with my family, friends, and the congregation. I have learned a lot in the process of becoming a bar mitzvah, including how to read trope, how to study Jewish thought, and how to write a d’var Torah. I have given careful consideration to my own values and those of my family.

To be "bar mitzvah'ed" is to become an adult in the community and take on religious responsibilities. In Parashat Naso, we learn about several ritual practices, including the ritual vows of the nazirites. We also discover the three-fold priestly blessing, which is often given to b'nai mitzvot.

Thank you to Rabbi Glazer for helping me with my d’var Torah. Thank you to Rabbi Jill Cozen-Harel for teaching me to chant my Torah and haftarah, and for also helping me with my d’var Torah. Thank you especially to my family for supporting me all the way.

Lola Schnaider's Bat Mitzvah

LolaShalom! My name is Lola Schnaider, and I am a 7th grader at the Brandeis School of San Francisco! I enjoy dancing, playing sports, photography, and listening to lots of music. I love to travel and be out in nature with my friends and family. In a few short days, I will be called to the Torah as a bat mitzvah. To me, becoming a bat mitzvah means accepting my responsibilities as the newest member of the Jewish community, and figuring out my Jewish identity.

I will be reading from Parashat Naso, which is found in the fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar. Several topics come up in my parsha including rules pertaining to contact with lepers, adultery, the nazarite vow, and the sacred, threefold Priestly blessing.

The topic that interests me the most is that of the sotah, which translates as "gone astray." Sotah is a ritual test that occurs when a husband suspects his wife of adultery. The wife must drink a mixture of clay and dirt from the floor of the Tabernacle, to prove her innocence or guilt. In my drash, I will offer a feminist perspective on the topic of sotah, as it relates and compares to our lives today. I am honored to be having my bat mitzvah at Congregation Beth Sholom, and I am thrilled to have my family and friends by my side.

I hope to see you all there!

Naso -- Numbers 4:21 – 7:89

Facebook_CoverDesign_Nasso2The American author Joan Didion (b. 1934) once remarked:

"Not much about California, on its own preferred terms, has encouraged its children to see themselves as connected to one another."

While this perception of disconnection between California children may still hold, the Children of Israel attempt to retain connection between one another without sacrificing the need to do so on their own terms, in their own particular manner. Offerings are made to inaugurate the altar by each of the twelve tribes. While these offerings appear to be identical, each day is described on its own terms.

The offerings that each of us make to bolster community are always unique, from planning and organizing [avodat ha’masah] that enables entry into moments of deeper self-reflection [avodat ha’avodah]. This week's parsha actually begins at the moment of completion of the grand census taking in the Sinai desert (detailed in last week’s reading). Parashat Naso tallies those who will be doing the planning and organizing [avodat ha’masah] of transporting the Tabernacle. Various laws are also revealed including the ritual of the wayward wife, known as sotah, as well as the spiritual practice of the nazir.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork presents an "earthen vessel" (Numbers 5:17) filled with "the bitter curse bearing waters" (Numbers 5:18) of the sotah ritual. The (presumed) wayward wife is forced to drink this potion to determine her (in)fidelity. The ritual's cartoonishly magical thinking (by today's standards) and grave consequences call to mind medieval witch trials; in a nod to the hocus-pocus, the bowl is seen here levitating, its shadow rippling like the surface of the potion. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.