Rosh HaShana: Following Our Hearts and Forgiving Mistakes
By: Madeline Barenboim – 2023-2024 Religious and Cultural Vice President of BOFTY (Temple Beth El of Boca Raton, FL), from her Rosh HaShana d’var Torah
For me, Judaism has always been a big part of my life, especially at Temple Beth El. My mom found her own Judaism here through the youth group and teaching, and now I find myself doing exactly the same thing. I have followed her in the path of temple, religious school, and attending URJ Camp Coleman. Having this incredible Jewish foundation, I have been able to expand my learning, experiences, and opportunities. From temple helping to get me to camp, to going to Israel through camp, to participating in L’Taken, a seminar through The RAC that brings teens from Reform temples across the country to lobby about important issues around social action on Capitol Hill, to then getting to give a speech about my experience at the town hall meeting for women’s reproductive rights, these opportunities have helped me realize what I intend to become in the future: a lawyer. I want to make the world a better place. To help as many people as possible by working to correct the system that dictates people’s lives.
Because of my infatuation with the law and hopefully practicing it in the future, my interpretation of this story seemingly should be more black and white, but I see more of the grey in between.
On Rosh Hashana, we read the Torah portion from the book of Genesis chapter 22, where Abraham, or for this purpose the defendant, is standing upon Mount Moriah and is about to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, the plaintiff, in order to prove his faith and trust in God. But before he is able to complete the human sacrifice, an angel prevents it and a ram is sacrificed instead, which is why we use a ram’s horn for the Shofar each new year, to remember this story.
You might think that the ruling is clearly in favor of Isaac, being an only child on his way to being sacrificed by his own father. But Abraham was the first Jew, he had no other guidance, no example to follow, no other idea of how to appease God. So what else was he supposed to do? In that day and age, it was acceptable, it was understood. How would he have known better without the interference of an angel? And at the end of the day, no one was harmed, other than the ram.
As we read about this parent and child, look around. Parents look to your children and children look to your parents. Put yourself in Abraham and Isaac’s positions. Looking at my mom, she has taught me to work towards my goals, and to be strong and independent. I know that what she believes in, she puts her entire heart and soul into, just like I do with Judaism. If she was in that position with no previous direction, would she do the same? Would I understand? Would it be her fault? I could never know, which is why we can’t judge. And during this time, we have to be forgiving and understanding.
While reading this story after another year of new experiences, challenges, ups and downs, I can’t help but think about the importance of not only giving the benefit of the doubt, but also the necessity of having an open mind when it comes to people and them making mistakes. Each and every one of us is human; making mistakes and being different is what makes us not only unique but similar to each other. And that is why we go back to this story over and over, to make more mistakes and learn from them.