Last weekend we enjoyed another wonderful Shabbat service celebrating a simcha in our Edgware Building - the Bat Mitzvah of Alicia Burger. Alicia read Torah beautifully and gave a very insightful Dvar Torah about the 5 daughters of Zelophchad (Mahlah, Noa, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah).
Alicia explained how, at that time, land could only be bequeathed to sons or sons-in-law. However, these 5 clever and courageous women challenged what they felt was an unjust situation. They went before Moses and argued that they should be allowed inherit their father’s land. They won the argument and, in the process, changed the law for all women for the rest of history.
Alicia explained how she was inspired by this story of early strides towards equal rights for women within Judaism. She was particularly impressed with the way these women stood up for what they believed in by using their intelligence and brainpower and described how their example would inspire her to achieve her goals by always trying her best and working hard.
It’s always very moving and refreshing for me when I see a young person relate so meaningfully to their Bat/Bar Mitzvah portion. We must do all we can to ensure that Torah remains relevant and inspiring to our lives and especially the lives of the younger members of our community. This happens when we see our lives reflected in Torah or when the wisdom of the Torah touches us deep inside.
Today is Rosh Chodesh Av (the first day of the new month of Av). The beginning of “The Nine Days” a period of mourning leading up to Tisha B’Av (the 9th Day of Av), which is considered to be the saddest day in our calendar – commemorating the destruction of both temples and other tragedies in Jewish history.
The Talmud says, "When the month of Av begins, we reduce our joy." During this period, we are invited to partake in different rituals to mark this period of mourning. We don’t consume meat or wine, except on Shabbat. In the last few centuries our legal authorities have also prohibited haircuts and shaving. More generally, activities that bring joy are avoided, such as going to the cinema or wearing new clothes.
I invite you to consider in what way you might want to participate in marking these days of mourning and including yourself in the rituals and customs of the Jewish people.