I am honored to share with you this piece composed by Bat Mitzvah, Mia Rose Mazur. Sometimes wisdom comes with age. Sometimes the age is twelve.
Mia’s D’var Torah
(11 Sh’vat 5775; 31 January 2015)
B’Shalach means “sent” or “accompany,” which makes a lot of sense, because G-d sent the Israelites out of Egypt, while Pharaoh chased after them. He helped save the children of Israel from the wrath of Pharaoh, and accompanied them to continue on their journey. The Israelites sang to celebrate their victorious triumph over the Egyptians. But along their journey, they complained about not having enough food or water. G-d provided them with all of these, but they still complained. He got Moses to tell the people that, “Adonai is always with you.”
It took the Israelites a while to appreciate the freedom they were given. While being freed from slavery and heading to a better life, they still whined about things that could easily be solved with patience. “Are we there yet? We ran out of manna! Hershel drank all the water, and now we’re going to die! Why’s it so hot?” All of these childish complaints were getting them nowhere. The complaining shows what kind of damage is done by a lack of freedom. That’s something that takes time to appreciate, but it’s something you should be grateful for. When my mom stopped teaching at ODU, she clearly wasn’t in the best mood for chatting. But then she realized, “If I’m not grading papers all the time, I can get more organized and do what matters to me; teach writing where it’s most needed.” Like my mother, the Israelites were free to become who they wanted to be now that they were out of Egypt. Realizing your freedom is something celebratory, which is why Miriam sang her song. They were “reborn into freedom,” and celebrated and praised the God that made it possible.
Another female leader appears in my haftorah, Devorah. She is a judge of the people, and she sings praise to G-d. Why are these women so full of song? It’s because they understand how important their priorities are. Many people, with all the luck they could possibly have, still are unaware of the freedoms they have. Many don’t even get that chance. There was a transgender girl named Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide this past December, because she couldn’t be herself. Her parents, classmates, school and even her own TOWN refused to accept her. I can’t imagine living a life without the freedom to be myself, whoever that might be on any day.
So, in honor of Leelah and all the L.G.B.T.Q youth who couldn’t see their way to freedom, I will donate to the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that works to achieve legal equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, and queer American citizens. I will also be attending monthly meetings of P-FLAG – which stands for “Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays” – to learn what I can do to support the community. Lastly, I will also seek to educate my community. Some ways we can help is to ask libraries to offer books about L.G.B.T.Q. people and issues, start a blog on the issue of discrimination, and work to pass a non-discrimination ordinance in our community.
I want to acknowledge some people who helped me get here. My parents, of course, for letting me be myself, and cracking corny jokes when I got down. Elias, who is USUALLY pleasant to me, and loves me no matter how much I scream when I see my favorite band on TV. Rabbi Arnowitz, for giving me the strength and encouragement to get up here and speak my mind. Cantor Piltch, who I will definitely miss and hate to see go, I thank you for helping me learn my responsibilities on becoming a Bat Mitzvah, and I wish you the best of luck in Be’er Sheva. To my friends and other family members, for knowing who I am and tolerating me for the past few years. My teachers, including Mrs. Roberts, Mrs. Wasserberg, and Mrs. Liederman, for enabling me to know what I’m saying without sounding ridiculous. And thank you to Harry, Louis, Niall, Zayn, and Liam for providing me with some of the best songs I’ve ever heard, and your general kindness. Shabbat shalom.