Bat mitzvah Naava Simckes’ d’var Torah


Naava Simckes is the daughter of Andria Danine Simckes and David Elan Simckes.

By Naava Simckes

Delivered over the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend at Congregation B’nai Amoona. To read the speech delivered by Naava’s mother, Andria Danine Simckes, click here

Shabbat Shalom and thank you for joining me for my Bat Mitzvah. 

We all have bad habits, some of us have more than others. For example, I have a bad habit of complaining. I sometimes complain for a specific reason.  Other times, I complain just for the fun of it.  At least…. it is fun to me.  I would like for you to think of one bad habit you have.  Would it be hard for you to change that bad habit?  

In Parshat Bo, Pharaoh has the bad habit, of saying “no.” Pharaoh’s bad habit started before the ten plagues. Because bad habits are hard to break, he continued to say “no’’ throughout each of the ten plagues. This led to Pharaoh’s heart continuously becoming hardened.  For the first five of the Ten Plagues; blood, frogs, lice, insects, and livestock, Pharaoh hardened his own heart. In my opinion, I think Pharaoh saying “no” and refusing to take another option into consideration, led to his bad habit of being stubborn. When Pharaoh hardened his own heart, he made himself even more stubborn than he was before. After the sixth plague, boils, only then did God step in and harden Pharaoh’s heart for him. It appears that when God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart,’’ he stopped Pharaoh from making the right decision, which was to say “yes’’ and let the Israelites go. 


There is a bit of a conundrum with God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. DID God really deprive Pharaoh of his free will? Or did Pharaoh do it to himself?  It was Pharaoh’s own early actions and the outcomes of those actions that ended up  not only hurting him but his entire kingdom. God gave up hope that Pharaoh would make the right decision and change this bad habit. When Pharaoh was hardening his own heart he shut out all other ideas and became stubborn, and he did not try to change. When God stepped in, he made it so Pharaoh would continue this bad habit of saying “no.” It was only on the tenth plague, which was so terrible Pharaoh finally realized the error of his ways.  From this we can realize that our own early action can greatly limit our future choices.

This horrible tenth plague was the death of the Firstborn.  This plague was not only harsh, it was earth shattering. The idea of murdering such a large group people was so crazy because to keep the human race alive we have to reproduce.  By killing off one group of people you are losing many lives that may have done something great in the future. This is not the first time that God has killed  a group of people. In Noach, God flooded the whole earth killing many people. Why haven’t we learned that we need to think before we act or speak and we need to attempt to change our bad habits or we and others may suffer?  Although God did do something so horrible, it was Pharaoh’s fault that this happened. It was Pharaoh’s early actions that affected him and his whole community.

Today people everywhere continue to have bad habits. For example, some people steal so much that they feel like the need to steal for no reason.  Stealing becomes their habit. Another example is how some people only surround themselves with people who are just like them. Their habit is that they are close minded and not willing to give other people a chance.  They choose not to branch out and experience different types of people. Pharaoh also had the bad habit of being close minded. Not only did Pharaoh single out the Israelites and try to enslave and kill them, he also did not listen to what Moshe and Aaron had to say. 

In our own American history, people singled out black people, because of their skin color, took them from their families and enslaved them. Although people do not own slaves today  in AMERICA , there is still a lot of racism, sexism, homophobia and religious discrimination. Growing up being female, biracial and Jewish I have not only learned about people who are racist, sexist and anti semitic, I have witnessed people being discriminated against because of who they are. It is unfair that all of these things occur so often. If we all know the saying ,“ If we don’t study our history, history is bound to repeat itself,” why is being racist, sexist, homophobic, and anti semitic things that still exist? Why have they become people’s bad habits?  No one wants what happened in Egypt to happen again, we don’t want a group of people dead when they did not do anything wrong. If we don’t want the same or similar outcome, why are some of us trying to hurt others?  If we listen and think about the possible outcomes from our own early wrong actions, then the results of mistakes that took place in our history will not occur again. If Pharaoh had listened and said,  “yes” early on, he and all of Egypt may have not lost their first born.  We all need start to say “yes” and accept others, because it does not matter if you are Gay, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Black, White, Blue, Purple, Green or Yellow; we are ALL humans and we are made in God’s image. 

Growing up my parents taught me to be accepting of others, because there are people who do not accept us for who we are. Bad habits are normal for everyone, but we should not let our bad habits get us to the point of no return, the point that Pharaoh’s habit got him and the land of Egypt. This weekend we honor and remember Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. King once said “ I have a dream that one day my four little children may not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I ask that you help me create a world for my future children where, they will not be judged by the color of their skin but instead by the content of their character.

I would like to thank Rabbi Ari, Rabbi Davidson, Cantor Nathanson, Rabbi Rose and Rabbi Friedman for helping me prepare for my Bat Mitzvah. I would not have been prepared and ready for my Simcha without all of you. I would like to thank Liam, Ayden and Maayan for being the best siblings I could ever have. Also for always being there for me. I would like to thank my Ima and Abba so much for everything I am and everything I have. I would like to thank my Soba and Sovta and Oma and Zayde for being amazing grandparents.I would also like to thank my friends and family who came from nearby and from far away. Lastly thank you to all of you who have joined me on this special day.

Shabbat Shalom!