Our Community Celebrates

Brooke and Zachary Berkoff

B’nai Mitzvah date: April 30, 2022
Parents: Stacey and Jeffrey

Shabbat Shalom.

Thank you to everyone for coming from near and far. It means so much to us that you all have come today to celebrate this very special milestone in our Jewish life.
Now, we would like to take a brief moment and explain to you all what our Torah portion, Acharei Mot, is all about.

Following the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, G‐d warns against unauthorized entry “into the holy”. Only one person, the kohen gadol (“high priest”), may but once a year on Yom Kippur, enter the innermost chamber in the Sanctuary to offer the sacred ketoret to G‐d.

Another feature of the Day of Atonement service is the drawing of lots over two goats, to determine which should be offered to G‐d and which should be sent to carry off the sins of Israel to the wilderness as a scapegoat.

The Torah portion also warns against bringing korbanot (animal or meal offerings) anywhere but in the Holy Temple and forbids the consumption of blood.

There are many themes in our Torah portion, Acharei Mot, however the theme we would like to talk about today is “learning from your mistakes.” This occurs in our Torah portion when Aaron is atoning for the sinful actions of his children. We understand this concept because during Covid, our school went remote, and we had to adjust to the virtual learning environment. In certain classes, it was harder to pay attention, and much harder to
contribute to discussions compared to in-person classes. To address this issue, we spent additional time working on the topics discussed in class, and arranged for personal meetings with teachers, so we could better understand the material! You might say this was how we
had atoned, or made up for our lack of attention in class. We became much better adjusted to virtual learning, and stronger than ever in all of my classes. We remain better students, contributors, and independent thinkers.

Another theme we would like to talk about is personal responsibility. This occurs in our portion on Yom Kippur when the high priest is supposed to bring two goats before G-d, otherwise known as scapegoats. People cast their sins upon the goats and let them run away, rather than the people taking responsibility for what they have done. We understand this because we know that blaming others for something you have done is sometimes easier than admitting it was you. This does not make your actions correct. Everyone has to take personal responsibility for their actions. Whether it was who ate the last strawberry, or who trailed mud through the house, you may be quick to blame your siblings, making them the scapegoats, rather than owning up to it yourself. Although sometimes it’s fun to play a little joke or two, we strive to be responsible, honest, and kind in my everyday life.

For our b’nai mitzvah, we took part in two important mitzvah projects:

Our first mitzvah project was in honor of our cousin Alyssa, where we set up a donation page to raise money for breast cancer research. All the donations went towards BCRF, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, which raises millions of dollars to support the brightest and smartest medical institutions around, and is one of the highest ranked foundations in the United States. We are pleased to announce that we surpassed our donation goal– thank you to everyone who donated!

For our second mitzvah project, we wanted to work together to collect donations for a local animal shelter, the Voorhees Animal Orphanage, to help out the animals in need. Over the last six months, we have collected numerous blankets, towels, tennis balls, food, and treats that we delivered to the orphanage. We both have a love for animals, as they have been a huge part of our everyday lives, and we are always eager to help out in whatever ways we can because by helping these shelters, we are also saving these lives.


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