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!

Metzora -- Leviticus 14:1 – 15:33

CoverDesign_MetzoraFrench author Victor Hugo (1802-1885) once remarked:

"Society is a republic. When an individual tries to lift themselves above others, they are dragged down by the mass, either by ridicule or slander."

Slander is at once a spiritual and physical disease. In Numbers 12, Miriam stokes the masses to revolt against the leadership of her brother, Moses, through the sin of slander. But slander appears in Parshat Metzora, too, albeit less plainly. The signs of the metzora (commonly mistranslated as "leper" in last week’s parsha) really describe a person caught in a state of unpreparedness or inappropriateness for ritual engagement. The recipe for return (or becoming "clean" again) may strike the modern reader as magical. A detailed ceremony is described whereby the priest brings together two birds, spring water in an earthen vessel, a piece of cedar wood, a scarlet thread, and a bundle of hyssop as an offering.

But this spiritual malaise is not limited to one’s person; it can also spread to one’s home, as manifest by dark red or green patches on the walls. This disease of tzara’at is at once spiritual and physical because it leads to exclusion and is associated with strife and dissension that are often the natural fall-out of hate speech.

Tzara’at takes different forms today, including irate e-mails, bullying texts, and harassing phone messages, but the outcome is largely the same — exclusion, strife, and dissension. Our task is to find ways of returning to our relationships, especially in society, ready to re-engage fairly and wholly with others after we have purged ourselves of our disruptive and destructive patterns, able to return to that unsullied core of the soul within each and every one of us.

- Rabbi Aubrey Glazer

Artwork note: This week's artwork is inspired by the sacrifice of "two, live clean birds" described in the opening passage of Parashat Metzora. Illustration by Christopher Orev Reiger.

Joseph Neyman's Bar Mitzvah

JosephNeymanBarMitzvahphotoShalom! My name is Joseph Neyman. I am a seventh grade student at the Brandeis School in San Francisco. Just like every teenage guy, I love sports. My favorites are skateboarding, swimming, soccer, skiing, and water polo. I also enjoy video games and hanging out with my friends. When I’m not doing any of these or in school, I spend time with my parents watching movies, eating out, and doing non-fun teenager stuff like reading.

Over the many months that I have been studying for my bar mitzvah, I have learned valuable skills like not giving up easily, managing my time effectively, and having lots of patience. I have grown to enjoy practicing for my special day. I think that my bar mitzvah is not only about chanting the Torah and leading services, but also about receiving a greater role in the Jewish community and learning the responsibilities of being an adult. Last year, I joined the Youth Tzedek program at SF Jewish Family and Children’s Services, which has workshops about leadership and values. But more important than those were the opportunities I had to help families who are in need by putting together supplies and necessities, preparing meals, and helping to deliver goods each Jewish holiday.

This week I will be sharing an extremely special day with my friends, family, and the Beth Sholom community. I will be called up to the Torah to become an adult. I will be reading from Parashat Tazria. My parsha is about the laws related to a leprous skin disease called tza’arat. Even if this parsha talks about ancient skin disease that no longer affecting us, the core message is still relevant in our modern world. I hope you can join us this Shabbat.

A big thank you to Rabbi Glazer for helping me understand my parsha and for helping me with my drash, and to Marilyn Heiss, my teacher, for teaching me trope, and to my parents who are always there for me.