Sermon June 28 Portion: Shelach/Bar Mitzvah of Elliott Goldberg
Elliott Goldberg davened the preliminary morning service, read the entire Torah parsha, and chanted his Haftorah on his Bar Mitzvah on June 27, 2003. He attended Aleph Bet Jewish Day School in Annapolis and attends Beth Tfiloh Jewish Day school in Baltimore. (Photo courtesy of Spectrum Productions)
Good Shabbos everybody. Mazal Tov.
Today we read the story about one of the most painful incidents in Jewish history. I can tell you that many great scholars consider this incident the most painful in the entire Torah. I speak of Moses sending the spies to Canaan. We still live with the trauma of this event even though it happened thousands of years ago. The twelve heads of the twelve tribes went on a special mission to spy out the Holy Land. It wasn’t necessary because G-d promised the land and G-d had already promised that everything would be fine. But people doubted. And the report that the spies returned with was bad.
We, as the descendants look back and see only the positive side, the two spies which represent the minority who gave a positive report. Only two spies went against the majority of ten. This proves that history repeats again and again. We look up to these heads of the tribes as role models and leaders and yet in a short trip they returned with such an evil report. An old teacher of mine used to say, I could send two students to France for a week, one would return, and say, "It’s a terrible place, so much crime and such awful immorality." The other would come back and tell about the beautiful art and religious institutions and the overall beauty of the land. These leaders who generally demonstrated a strong faith, lost one single value. They lost the connection with the foundation of our faith. Our foundation is based on the triangle of three elements: Our Torah, our nation and our Holy Land. All these three elements are connected and must be part of our credence and life.
Elliott, when I met you almost a year and a half ago, you told me that you wanted to read the entire Torah portion, and I asked you "Why?" You told me that you believed in yourself and you believed that you could make it. I felt that because you have such perseverance, you are very connected to your goal and I knew that you were going to make it. I am happy that you made it beautifully. The notion of feeling connected and loved is the foundation of our faith. You are connected to your loving parents, and you are connected here to your second home, to the synagogue. During your Bar Mitzvah, you showed us that you are a responsible person. You did the entire Torah portion, the Haftarah and the preliminary service. We learned today how important it is to be connected. These two out of twelve leaders of the tribes, these are the paragons of connectedness. The secret of our survival is because we have people like you and like Joshua and Caleb, the two courageous spies who stood up to the majority. Now as well as during the Biblical times such people feel a strong connectivity to our roots, our Torah, and our Holy Land. Elliot, I wrote these words for you:
Since the days of Abraham, the first Jew,
boys have celebrated their Bar Mitzvah
There is cause for celebration in Jewish hearts,as a boy becomes a man
When a boy perseveres and becomes successful
We all shep nochus from his accomplishments.
Elliott, you chanted beautifully the entire Torah portion
By doing that you did more then just read a few lines of the Torah
Today, your parents and everyone here can glow with pride
Because of your bona fide sincerity in loving Torah
On this day you really became a responsible man in the eyes of G-d
And now meet Elliott Goldberg a man
Who definitely will follow G-d's plan
To be a mench, a torah scholar, a leader and a good son
Because Elliott will always have the strength of his convictions.
Elliott, as you look around you see so many people who are here to express their strong connection to you. We all love you, your parents, your grandparents, your fellow students, the congregation, my family and myself. I want to take this opportunity to bless your grandparents, your parents, the people who came here, and to wish you all good health and happiness and I want to give you the blessing that the Holy Priests used to give in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem: May G-d bless you and safeguard you, may G-d bring good health and peace upon you and may you be a source of continuation of our traditions. Mazel Tov.