Bat Mitzvah Nikhita Lissauer - D'var Torah & Project
Below is Nikhita's D'var Torah:
In the beginning of my parashat, an evil king, called Balak, sent a well respected and powerful magician, called Balaam, to go and curse the Israelites. Balaam was riding his donkey to the Israelites when God sent an angel down, holding out a sword, to stop Balaam and his donkey from going any further on their journey. Only the donkey could see the angel and quickly turned around to attempt to go back but Balaam overruled both the donkey and the angel, and continued on his journey.
Balaam was a very intelligent and learned professional He should have understood that the job assigned to him was impossible, and even more, god sent an angel down to stop him but he carried on anyway
In the section of my parashat that I read, Balaam had finally arrived at high ground above the Israelites. Balaam started trying to curse the Israelites, he tried twice but each time God changed the word in his mouth as he spoke, and instead of cursing the Israelites he blesses them.
Different people have different views on this story and Balaams intentions.
Ibn Ezra maintains that Balaam was aware he could not do his job and that God would have made the curses ineffective but he persisted anyway because he was a deceitful person and wanted to keep the money that Balak had given to him in anticipation for the work.
Nachmanides believes that Balaam was even worse: that he knew from the beginning that cursing the Israelites was impossible, but wanted Balaam and other people to know that he had the power to curse them anyway.
For Ibn Ezra Balaam is a greedy individual. For Nachmanides Balaam is ambitious and power-hungry.
Hirsch has a different opinion. For Hirsch Balaam understands, after various failed attempts, that it is impossible to curse the Israelites. In the beginning, Balaam thinks he is stronger than God, hence why he doesn’t listen to the angel that stopped the donkey, but he later realises that it is impossible.
Though I agree with many parts of Nachmanides theory, the theory I agree with most is Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who believed that Balaams faith in God evolves, as does his willingness to do Gods will. Hirsch believed that people can change and he thinks that is exactly what Balaam did. Balaam changed his mind.
There are many examples of times when people know what the right thing to do is, but they choose to do the wrong thing for a while, before realising the negative consequences of their actions, and then choose to stop.
For example, people know about things that are bad for the environment and our planet, but even with this knowledge, they continue to do them.
For instance, driving short distances to somewhere that you could easily walk or cycle to.
We have the knowledge and awareness that this is wrong, and contributes to the damage from co2 emissions, but we can sometimes think “oh well, it is just a short drive” or “ it is just so much easier”.
I used to often find myself asking my mum for a lift to dance classes, school, friends houses and other places, which I knew was not the right thing to do but it made my life easier in that moment.
Now My conscience has shifted and I prefer to not feel I’m contributing to environmental harm , and choose to walk, run or cycle to many more places where before I would have asked for lifts.
I am also deciding to eat less fish and be very mindful of unnecessary plastic usage. Now I have more awareness of the destruction happening to the worlds oceans, I don’t want to play an active role in this. The damage in the oceans and the wider environment will have bad consequences not just for my future but for all of us and future generations.
As my knowledge has grown, so has my awareness for our environment, and I want to act and live with kindness and consideration to the planet.
Just as God helped Balaam to see the errors of his intentions, that were wrong and driven by greed. Balaam eventually decided to do the right thing and not curse the Israelites.
God would not have allowed this to happen, as he protects those he has blessed .
We know God has blessed our planet too and will help guide us all to protect it .
I would like to thank my family for being so supportive. Thank you mum for helping me believe in myself, and always being by my side and supporting me. Thank you to Ezra and tara for being such amazing siblings and getting so excited for this. And to Alexis for being there for me. Thank Nana for being so helpful, loving and for being a natural proof reader. And thank you to the rest of my family for supporting me through my journey.
I would like to thank my amazing teachers Sarah and Rabbi Andrea for helping me prepare for my bat mitzvah. Thank you for being so patient with me whilst I learnt Hebrew and prepared for this day. You have taught me so much in the last year. And I am so thankful!
And to my closest friend, willa, for supporting me, always making me laugh and for listening to me practice all of my Hebrew and and speaches so I could get used to reading in front of people, for hours.
And thank you everyone who is here for coming to join me on this special day!