Photo Credit: Courtesy
The Bar Mitzvah boys.

It’s not pleasant to read passages in this week’s Torah portion that describe problematic behavior on the part of our people. The same generation that leaves Egypt and receives the Torah at Mount Sinai forgets its many blessings and searches for a reason to complain. Despite many miracles and daily manna from heaven whose taste is whatever they wish it to be, the people are seized by a craving for meat and a desire to return to Egypt.

Why not erase such uncomplimentary parts of the Torah? Why not do a “makeover” of these unfortunate events? Our commentators explain that it is forbidden to minimize their importance. Passages about our transgressions are part of the holy Torah and it is crucial to linger over them and learn the lessons that they teach.


Their message for us is clear: In all of our lives, there are mistakes and failures, both on a personal and a national level. Before Simchat Torah and since, there have been tragic examples of such failures. But instead of erasing the past, our mistakes and our sins can be made into “Torah,” a word that means instruction. In other words, we can learn from our errors and see them as warning signs that can direct and guide us as we go forward into a brighter future.

And so just as the nation, after egregious mistakes, continues on its journey through the desert, may we continue on our journey too. Behatzlacha.


Two Special Bar Mitzvah Celebrations

Rabbi Yaakov Naman from Kiryat Ono shared two special occasions that were celebrated last Shabbat in his synagogue.

The first was the bar mitzvah of Ben Amar, brother of the observation soldier, Shirat Yam Amar, who was murdered on Simchat Torah at her post in Nachal Oz. The family needed to muster extra strength in order to emerge from their grief and celebrate Ben’s bar mitzvah. “In the end, they were all able to rejoice,” said Rabbi Naman. “We felt Ben’s sister was with us, and even the tallitot commemorated her!” (See the photos, which were taken before Shabbat.)

The second bar mitzvah “boy,” Menashe Hakak Halevi, is the Amar’s neighbor, who recently celebrated his 60th birthday. No, that’s not a typo. When Menashe turned 13, his father was very ill and passed away soon afterward, so he never had a bar mitzvah. Now, for the first time in his life, he learned to read from the Torah.

During the shiva for Shirat Yam, Menashe helped the Amars in many ways. At the time, no one knew that they would yet celebrate together, transmitting a message of triumph of the Jewish spirit and of connection to eternal values.

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

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Sivan Rahav-Meir is a popular Channel 12 News anchor, the host of a weekly radio show on Galei Tzahal, a columnist for Yediot Aharonot, and the author of “#Parasha.” Every day she shares short Torah thoughts to over 100,000 Israelis – both observant and not – via Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Translation by Yehoshua Siskin.