September Torah Portions | MitzvahMarket

September 2023 Torah Portions: A B’nei Mitzvah Interpretation

September 2023 Torah Portions: A B’nei Mitzvah Interpretation

September 2023 Torah Portions: A B’nei Mitzvah Interpretation

By Drew Kramer

The Torah includes the Five Books of Moses. The story is divided into 54 separate portions, which links to a specific week in the calendar. As part of the B’nei Mitzvah ritual, children are asked to study and discuss the particular Torah Portion that falls on the date of the ceremony. On the bima, the child makes a speech connecting the lessons of that week’s portion to his or her own adolescent life. The speech unites the ancient religion and the modern experience of growing up. Below is an overview of the September Torah Portions. In this season, synagogues across the world consider the late chapters of the Book of Deuteronomy, the fifth and final book of the Hebrew Bible (AKA the Christian Old Testament). 

The Book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ final sermon to the Jewish people before they enter Israel. Moses reminds his people of their last forty years spent wandering the wilderness. He urges them to follow the laws of the covenant with God. If you are gearing up for a September B’nei Mitzvah, below is an overview of the weekly portions that will set the tone for a new year and a new phase of life. 

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Ki Tavo, Deu 26:1 – 29:8; September 2, 2023

The title of this Torah Portion translates to “When You Enter.” The reference is to the Jewish people’s entry into Israel, the Promise Land, after 40 years of wandering. This title feels significant for a B’nei Mitzvah because the child has been wandering through childhood, growing and regressing until this moment marking the entrance to adulthood. 

In this Torah Portion, Moses is at the end of his life, making a sermon to the Jewish people. He instructs the Israelites, upon entering the promised land, to offer the first fruit of their harvest to God as an acknowledgement for removing them from slavery in Egypt. This section calls out the need to honor God for bringing the Jews to the land of “milk and honey,” as well as a call to give to the less fortunate. In his call for gratitude and generosity, Moses reminds the Israelites that God will bless them for living by the commandments. If they stray from the covenant, they’ll endure the wrath of God’s discontent. This section, famed for its firstfruits call to action, is ripe for acknowledging the child’s appreciation for the abundance of resources and love enjoyed in childhood and the future commitment to Jewish values, particularly tikkun olam, or healing the world.

Nitzavim, Deu 29:9 – 30:20; September 9, 2023

Nitzavim translates to “You Are Standing.” As Moses continues his last sermon, this section highlights some of the most fundamental principles of Judaism. He reminds his people that they are standing before God, making a commitment to preserve the Covenant of God so that God may deliver on the promise to bless his people in the Promised Land. Like the Jewish people entering Israel for the first time, the B’nei Mitzvah asks the child to make a promise upon entering adulthood. As the child matures, the child is responsible for his or her actions or inactions. This moment is a promise to God that he or she will live in accordance with the covenant. As a Jewish adult, the child is now responsible for upholding the values set forth for the Jewish people, as well as accepting the consequences of going astray. On the bima, the B’nei Mitzvah has the opportunity to express this commitment to Judaism, and emphasize the values that are already serving as a guiding light. 

Vayelekh, Deu 31:1 – 31:30 September 16, 2023

Vayelekh, or “And He Went,” concludes Moses’ final sermon. God tells Moses that he will not pass into the Promised Land. Moses is 120 years old. It is now time for him to lie down with his ancestors. God tells Moses to anoint Joshua as the leader who will bring the Jewish people into Israel and predicts that this people will forsake the covenant and face the consequences. Moses shares God’s song with Joshua and instructs him to teach it to the Jewish people, “Be steadfast and strong! For you are to bring the children of Israel to the land that I have sworn to them, and I will be with you.”

In God’s prediction that the Jewish people will stray from their covenant with God, there is a promise that the covenant shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their descendants. In this prophetic passage on faith and commitment, God reminds the Jewish people that he will be with them. As children become a B’nei Mitzvah, they begin to take ownership of their Jewish identity. In everyone’s life, good and bad will come, causing moments of commitment and questioning to ebb and flow. Here, the children on the bima can affirm that in their own struggles and at every crossroads, God is with them.

Ha’azinu, Deu 32:1 – 32:52; September 23, 2023

Ha’azinu, or “Listen,” is the second to last book of the Torah. It includes Moses’ final message, a moving cry from his heart.

After a retelling of the story of God as the savior, the covenant and the warning to remain true, Moses shifts his language. Rather than warning of God’s powerful wrath, Moses strikes a more gentle chord. In poetic language that compares the Torah to the rain and wind that challenges, but nourishes the Earth, Moses suggests that God helps us grow, but also tests us to make us stronger. He reiterates the power of God as the creator, connected to all existence and remaining with us forever. Here, Moses reminds us to live with a deeper and broader purpose, to recognize the goodness and love within the universe and radiate the same to the rest of humanity. As a B’nei Mitzvah, the child can connect to the experience of God through that of a parents’ eternal love. This comparison of the creator’s everlasting commitment ensures the continuation of Jewish faith and values and the future of the Jewish people then and now.

Drew Kramer is a writer, performer, and the founder of Lady and The Floofs.

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