Example of Group Aliyah Themes for Parsha Toldot: Bar Mitzvah of Aaron Roffman

B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

This week's Torah parsha is Parshat Toldot. It begins with the birth of Jacob and Esau. Isaac and Rebecca were barren and had no children until one day when Rebecca became pregnant. The parsha then talks about how Jacob and Esau grow up struggling against each other for power.

In the first aliyah Rebecca becomes pregnant and the two children struggle within her. She suffered great pain. She was afraid that she would have a miscarriage. Rebecca says, "If this is happening why should I suffer? Oy Veigh!" So Rebecca decides to seek help from G-d. Rashi says that she actually talked to Shem, the son of Noah and he talked to G-d for her. At this time, she must have been feeling sad, depressed, concerned for her future, and frustrated. Have you ever felt this way? When you felt like that, concerned, depressed, or frustrated about major issues in your life, did you want to ask G-d for help? If you have ever wanted to ask G-d for help in a difficult situation, please come up to the bimah to share the Torah blessings for this aliyah.

In the second aliyah, G-d says to Rebecca that two nations are in her womb; the older child will serve the younger one. When Rebecca gave birth, she had twins. The first one came out red skinned and hairy, so he was named Esau, which means, "Rough One". The second one emerged with his hand grabbing Esau's heel, thus he was called Jacob, which means, "Heel Holder." Jacob and Esau were struggling inside Rebecca's womb. The pain of this struggle was great. Having two nations struggle inside her, she must have felt a great conflict within her. Has anyone felt conflict within himself or herself? This aliyah is for people who feel conflict about something and would like a blessing for help at resolving this tension; this aliyah is also for people who remember having a time of conflict and then resolving it. Please come up to the bimah to share the Torah blessings.

The third aliyah talks about the boys growing up and how Esau sells his birthright. Esau grew up to be a hunter and Jacob grew up to love the indoors and he stayed in tents. Isaac grew to love Esau because of his hunting skill, but Rebecca loved Jacob. One day, Jacob is making a stew when Esau comes home and says to Jacob, "Give me some of that stew, because I am exhausted." Jacob says, "On one condition, you must sell me…your birthright!" (Bum bum bom.) Esau sells Jacob his birthright and Jacob gives him some lentil stew. This puts Jacob in the position where he has what he wants, since Esau wouldn't have been the right leader for the Jews. As time went by, the Torah tells us that Esau felt terrible about losing his birthright. Has anyone in the congregation ever given up something that would have been rightfully yours? Or perhaps you gave something up because you believed doing so would be for the common good? This is still a painful choice. If you have given up on something that is rightfully yours, please share your frustration by coming up and joining us on the bimah for this aliyah.

In the fourth aliyah there is a famine in Canaan. G-d tells Isaac to stay in Canaan and not to go to Egypt as Abraham did. He also tells Isaac that if he stays in Canaan, G-d will keep the covenant that he made with Abraham. Isaac will be blessed by having his people be as numerous as the stars, and his nation will control Canaan. Life, freedom, having children, and having enough of life's necessities, are some of the blessings that we have from G-d. This blessing is still in effect today. It is passed from generation to generation, from parent to child. It began with Abraham, and was passed to Isaac, who passed it to Jacob, who passed it over the years to my grandparents, who passed it to my parents, who are passing it to me today. For passing blessings of many kinds on to me: love, guidance, Judaism, humor, creativity, wisdom, and just plain common sense, I would like to honor my grandparents Grandma Florence Lotker, and Bubbie and Papa, Florence and Marty Roffman, by inviting them to the bimah for this aliyah.

In the fifth aliyah, Isaac goes to Gerar. When the locals asked him about his wife he says, "She is my sister," so that the locals will not kill him because Rebecca was pretty. One day, Abimelech, the king of the Philistines looked through his window and saw Isaac kissing Rebecca. Abimelech called Isaac to his palace and said to him, "Look! She is your wife! Why did you say, She is my sister!" I do not respect Isaac's behavior here, first because lying is wrong. Second, it is not good to pretend that your wife is your sister. Third, doing so can leave your wife open to being taken by another man. I can't relate to this story. It makes me squirm in my stomach. I don't know how to interpret the Torah here. If anyone has ever had trouble interpreting the Jewish Bible please come up to the bimah for this aliyah.

In the upcoming sixth aliyah, the Torah says that Isaac becomes wealthier and wealthier. He acquired flocks and herds and the Philistines envied him. They stopped up the wells dug by Abraham and filled them with dirt as an act of jealousy. Abimelech says to Isaac, "Leave this place because you are too wealthy." It seems that Isaac is becoming unpopular because the Philistines are jealous of his wealth. Has jealousy ever caused suffering for you? Jealousy is a powerful emotion that can affect how people treat each other within their families. If jealousy has affected your life, please join us on the bimah for this aliyah.

The seventh aliyah says that after being exiled Isaac settled in the valley of Gerar. Isaac redug the wells made by his father, Abraham, that the Philistines had stopped up. But when Isaac dug and found a well, the locals had a dispute with him over whose well it was. The next well that he tried to reopen didn't work out for him either. He moved away from there and dug a new well of his own, and there was no dispute over it. Isaac said, "This is where G-d wants me to live." Isaac couldn't use the wells made by his father. He had to dig wells on his own. Here, the Torah teaches us that you can't live off your parent's accomplishments. You must dig your own wells; you must find your own road to success. I'd like to thank my parents for letting me drink from their wells while I'm growing up, but as time goes by, I'll have to dig my own. In fact this day of my Bar Mitzvah is the starting point of responsibility for me. Mom, dad, thanks for letting me use your wells. Please come up and join us on the bimah for this aliyah.