This d’var Torah was submitted by Kiera Schneiderman from LIBERTY to the Blickstein D’var Torah Competition at NFTY Convention 2019.
Tetzaveh means command.
I command you to listen to me right now.
Notice how I addressed you without saying your name.
Tetzaveh is the only portion after Moses’s birth in which Moses’s name is not said. However, the portion begins by saying “And you”.
“And you shall command the children of Israel”
Just like how I referred to you with a pronoun, so did G-d to Moses in Tetzaveh. Moses’s name is never mentioned but it is he whom G-d is talking to.
Even today, hate still persists worldwide. Like some of you, I go to a school with less than ten Jews inside of it. I live in an area with very little diversity.
I’ve heard it all. Nothing offends me anymore.
There’s the simple jokes of course like “what’s the difference between a Jew and a pizza? Pizza comes out of the oven” or “Why do Jews have such big noses? Because air is free”.
In 7th grade, a boy brought fake money to school every day and would throw it at me and leave it at my desk.
In 8th grade, a five year old boy told me to leave and go home when he found at I was Jewish.
When I got to high school, I stopped telling people.
My friends know. But I didn’t trust anyone else.
Anti-semitism and hate was even more prevalent in high school. I think what made it worse was that people didn’t know. When most people knew I was Jewish, my classmates would tone it down when I was around.
When they didn’t know, there was no filter.
“The holocaust was just natural selection”
“Hitler was right”
One of my friends had this boyfriend who was a nazi and he would sit at my lunch table every single day.
My civics teacher was talking about the Tree of Life Shooting and my classmates laughed.
My classmates never said my name. They never directly told me they didn’t like me because I was Jewish. But in a way, they were talking to me and I heard it all.
A boy came up to me once and asked if I was Jewish. He probably figured it out on his own. I’m short. My hair is curly. My last name is Schneiderman.
I didn’t want to lie. I thought maybe he was Jewish too.
I told him yes.
The next day in class, I sneezed. He said “ Bless you, oh wait, you’re Jewish”.
Then everyone in that class knew. Not everyone in the school knew of course but word got around and at the moment I didn’t know what to do.
To stay holy in the midst of oppression is a difficult thing to do.
In Tetzaveh, G-d commands Moses to instruct his brother Aaron and his sons to become holy through sacrificial procedures. He instructs them to set up lamps lit by pure oil and to wear armour made of gold and colored fabrics. He instructs them to sacrifice one young bull and two rams and to put the blood of one ram on their right earlobe, right thumb, and right big toe.
Today, we pray.
There are the type of prayers when you’re in math class and you’re about to take a test, and then there’s the mourners kaddish for when we are grieving. The avot v’imahot for our forefathers and mothers. Oseh shalom for peace.
I needed to bring peace down among myself and my classmates. I was tired of all of the hate.
What I came to realize was that my classmates reactions to my faith were a lot different than I had expected.
I left some of my peers in a state of confusion; unsure of how to react.
I wouldn’t say I was friends with people who were anti semitic but I certainly interacted with them daily and treated them kindly. I heard everything they said and never spoke up.
You see, if you meet a person who is anti-semitic, and the first thing you tell them is that you’re Jewish, they’re not going to like you, but if they don’t know and you treat them kindly for years and then they find out, they’re going to have a different reaction.
Now not everyone was nice to me. There were certainly a few who bullied me more but I didn’t care. I had nothing to be afraid of anymore and nothing to lose.
I’m not saying you should hide your identity. Don’t be like me. Don’t hide your religion because you are afraid of what other people will think. Express your Judaism with words if you are comfortable, but most importantly, express it with your actions. I didn’t talk about my faith for a long time, but I learned that when I applied my Jewish values and my jewish ideals into my daily life, I left a positive impact on my community and made them think– and I didn’t have to sacrifice any rams to do so.
The majority of us live in a country where people are constantly afraid of one another.
Now it’s the immigrants. Then it was the Mexicans. Then it was the communists. Then it was the African Americans. And at some point, it was us.
When Indians were being unfairly controlled, Gandi stood up and used his beliefs to fight back peacefully.
When African Americans were being mistreated, Martin Luther King Jr stood up and used his beliefs to fight back peacefully.
Now it’s our turn.
I’ve heard it said that the main idea of the Torah is, “that which is hateful to you, do not do unto another”, and the rest is just commentary. Basically the main idea of the Torah, is to be a good person. In reform Judaism, everything is up to your own interpretation, but the majority of us have the common goal of being kind to one another. Show others what Jewish people are about.
It’s our turn to stand up.
Shabbat Shalom NFTY SAR,
Kiera Schneiderman is a sophomore from Matthews, NC. She is a member of Temple Beth El in Charlotte and currently serves as the Religious & Cultural Vice President of LIBERTY.