I could choose to roll my eyes at having to come up with another dvar torah related to one of my kids’ various Vayikra parshas – just a year later – but instead, I’ll leave the korbanot and the cohanim behind. Really, we have one word to focus on – look no further than the parsha’s title.
Yes, this week, it’s mainly korban this, mizbayach that. Just another set of eye-glazing mitzvot the Torah presents to us which we’ve been studying, acting on, and trying to relate to for thousands of years. As a bat mitzvah, navigating commands and obligations is your process now, too.
So over 4,000 years later, which of the parsha’s commands is still relevant, right here, right now?
ואֵ֗שׁ תָּמִ֛יד תּוּקַ֥ד עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּ֖חַ לֹ֥א תִכְבֶּֽה
Keep a continuous fire on the alter, it shall not go out. Always ready for service – an aish tamid, an eternal flame.
No longer for burning animals in sacrifice, staying lit, inspired, engaged is something we need to replicate with each other – and are failing miserably, as evidenced in the last few months here in Israel. Actually, as evidenced in thousands of years of Jewish exile, hundreds of years before that in Eretz Yisrael, really, since the beginning of our time.
Being a member of the Jewish nation is not easy!
But here you are – a bat mitzvah – these commands are now yours, you’re in, you’re officially responsible for your own actions and choices as a Jewish adult. This is a new status. A status where your actions matter. Where you’ll be asked to give – to care, to participate.
You count, now.
And the rest of us are very lucky for that.
One thing to understand about you – something I’ve watched in fascination for the last 12 years – is how incredibly giving you are. Unfortunately, not everyone is a natural when it comes to giving – not in the Jewish people, and not outside it. Truly giving people can be quite rare.
What might it mean to be giving?
- To hand over – to give in a way where something is now gone.
- To participate – to give yourself through actions.
- To submit – to give in to the bigger picture.
- To collaborate – to give, while letting others give, and figuring out how together that creates something better.
The best form of giving – for the giver and receiver – is the kind where you can give, and not lose yourself; where they can receive, and leave you whole. Where giving isn’t a loss.
Like… this particular flame, flickering at the center of an alter, ready to give and remain steadfast and strong and whole. Ready to service the nation, but rooted in place, secure in its beliefs, in its purpose.
Luckily, you have the tools in place to give your nation a chance at being more giving.
Not just the amazing soul you were born with. You have something else – you have the experience of being born into an incredibly diverse family; a literal kibbutz galiyot in me and abba finding each other, and bringing together a range of backgrounds and opinions and lifestyles. A chance to ask as many questions as you like, and to be accepting, without needing any answers at all.
I don’t even know if you truly appreciate this yet; but for the sake of our country, of our people – I hope your experience of growing up with all of us, as different as we are – loving each one endlessly, unconditionally – is something you can give back to our communities, our country, everyone around you.
You’re growing up 30 kilometers where that eternal flame existed, and where the home of that same mizbeyach – the beit hamikdash – burned to the ground – twice – because the Jewish people unfortunately are too well versed in fighting each other, as much as they are in fighting together.
So you’ve come to us equipped – and now you’re of age.
Welcome to Jewish adulthood, our nation will do much better with you here.