Hello, I’m Bass and I have a few subjects to touch upon in this speech. I’ll also have you know, I have many pages of notes so this might take a few minutes :-). I’ll be going over all sorts of things, like: questions about god, what the different darknesses man, the perception of idols, and even some loopholes I found in the Torah about them.
Just real quick, a summary of my parasha is: The people of Israel get to mount Sinai, we
receive the 10 commandments from god, and god tell us all of the things were not allowed to worship.
Now that I’ve summarized the Parasha, I want to ask, why does God have as much power as God does? Well because God is God, because God is powerful, I do agree that God has a lot, but I feel like a bit of that Power comes from the mystery we experience. For example, how we don’t have a gender for god, or a physical form and that God is beyond human understanding. Humans can’t comprehend things without physical form, so your guess could be as good as mine. Does God’s power come from the Mystery in and of itself? Or does it come from our human limitations? We remain in a constant wonder about God’s mysterious Power. That is the nature of human “unknowing”.
My tutor Sarah has encouraged me to ask another key question. Is it possible to feel close to and in awe of God at the same time? I would say yes because, I’m sure there are people who are far away that many of us look up to, for example a musician, but you may feel close to them because you may resonate with their music, or they might have some of the same experiences as you. An even better example is your parents, most of you look up to them with awe, while having a close connection with them as well. That is why I think you can feel close to and in awe of god at the same time.
Now about idolatry – a central theme in my Parsha. Idolatry is basically the worship of a physical object as a god. Judaism also prevents worshipping an artistic representation of god. What about other religions that have deities like Hinduism and Buddhism? We have many statues in our house of Ganesh and Buddha. Does this mean we are worshipping idols? I don’t think so because we have them just to appreciate the teachings they represent, but others may disagree. You can appreciate an object without worshipping it. Like my books. I love them and admire them on my shelf, but they are not gods and deserving of worship.
And from that idea I want to talk about, how does idolatry help or hurt us? As for helping, I think that having a higher being to look up to is reassuring in a way. Because you feel like someone’s there for you, helping you, encouraging you, with everything you want to do. As for cons, some people take it too far, saying that “god wants me to do this, so cooperate or be punished”. So I think that it helps you as long as you don’t use it to oppress others. Idolatry is mistaking the creation of God for the Creator, and elevating a part of creation to a Divinity.
And what about polytheism? The Torah emphasizes one God only but why is having multiple gods bad? On the one hand, gods are worshipped since they seem to sponsor or create bad things, like gods of war, or gods of famine, that ravage the land, but on the other hand, there are gods like gods of seasons, and gods of harvest as well. In one way polytheism makes sense because there is a deity who is in charge of all different aspects of the world. But the early Israelites rejected that and said that one God is in charge.
And if God is One, can God also be Many, including many aspects of the Universe? Including male and female? Can we refer to God as “they” rather than “He” “She” or other names? Does that make sense even when the Shma emphasizes “Ehad” or “one” One? In my conversation with My rabbi, we discussed the pluses and minuses of using “They” for God as a non-binary Being, but I’ll get back to that very soon.
Something I would like to quickly touch up upon is how all is one yet separate at the same time. We are all separate because we are all different from each other, in our own unique ways, yet we all end up being one because, we all trace back to 1 place, like this person was born from this person and this person was born from this person, and so on. But we’re all connected in ways, even if it’s small, like, we have brown hair, it can all be traced back to the same origin. It’s really cool if you think about it.
Now about the Shma – here is the famous verse in the Torah that signals that there is really only One God, And here we’re also getting back to the they /them theme. The translation is: Hear, O Israel: The lord is our god, the lord is one. But on the note of the lord is one, that’s singular, but so are they/them pronouns, I prefer to think of god as androgynous, but people like to genderize god, but saying they can still mean 1 person, for example if someone goes by they/them, that does doesn’t mean that they are multiple people, they just don’t identify as male or female. There are also different perspectives in the shma. The first part, here o Israel can be thought of being said from 1) the whole world, 2) The People of Israel, or 3) God. The second part is, the lord is our god. That would be from the perspective of the people of Israel. And the final part is the lord is one, which i would say, is in the perspective of god, saying it to the land.
One of the most amazing sections of my Parsha included a description of the Revelation of God’s word coming from Mt. Sinai but with an emphasis on Darkness. This interested me. In the very first section, it says: And the mountain burned up with fire up to the heavens, with darkness, a cloud, and opaque darkness. I find it very interesting how they list off different types of darkness, i think that’s because they don’t want to exclude any type of darkness, like for example it can be dark, but that darkness can be very dark, like midnight is a lot darker than 9 oclock, so you can see how those are different types of darkness, so something could happen in one type of darkness but not the other, so that’s why I think they listed off multiple types.
Now finally, the loopholes! I found two in my Torah portion, the first one is in verse 16, which states: Lest you become corrupt and make for YOURSELF a graven image. Which i found very interesting, they easily could have just taken out yourself, or substituted it, but they chose not to, so technically you could make it for someone else. The second one in verse 18 says: The likeness of anything that CRAWLS (it’s saying what you can’t make statues of Btw) which can be up for loose translation. You could easily say, well, anything that walks crawls the earth, but that’s not our definition of it. We think of it as anything that walks on four legs, mainly bugs or insects, but they could have said, anything that’s on the ground in general, so technically you could make an image of a kangaroo or a Monkey.
Now for the very last thing, I promise. I would really like to thank each and every one of you for going out of your way to be here and celebrate with me in these difficult times. It means so much to me. On top of the bar mitzvah, we’re moving to Switzerland in 6 days. It’s been really stressful to have both of these big life events happen at once. I’ve been working for the past year on this, and it’s been really hard, yet fun and rewarding. I’ve learned how to read Hebrew, sing and decipher prayers, and think critically about religion and torah, as well as just have a good time being a Jew.
This concludes my speech, thank you all for listening and being a part of my bar mitzvah day.