Ashir Bhalla-Levine's Bar Mitzvah Speech
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


By Ashir Bhalla-Levine as posted on Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA)
August 2014

"JVNA understands that by eliminating the evil and doing the good, the world will be a much safer and happier place ... "

The Torah portion this week, Ekev, talks a lot about reward and punishment in a few very detailed ways. By detailed, I am quoting examples where Moses is telling the Israelites what positive events will happen when they follow God’s rules and what negative events will happen when not following the rules of God.

But before we look at this, lets take a step back to see what exactly is happening during this Torah portion. Right now in the Torah, the Israelites have finished their long walk in circles in the desert and are about to enter the land of Canaan. Before they are allowed to enter, their leader, Moses, needs to warn them of the bad that can erupt as a consequence to their bad behaviors to make sure the new land will not turn into a place like Egypt.

As I said earlier, Moses states the positives and negatives that will come depending on the behaviors of the people. If the Israelites do end up causing enough negatives by breaking God’s rules, they will turn into a very corrupt society like Egypt.

This portion connects to our society today in some very bad ways. Many problems are erupting because we do not realize that we are, for example, destroying nature in the long run or ruining ecosystems quickly. Our society's destruction connects to God warning the Israelites but it is also different in many ways.

In the Torah, God warns the Israelites in great detail about what will happen with good decisions as well as bad decisions although in real life we are not told until it is too late. We need to look at how little nature is left on Earth. We need to realize how many animals we are having to protect because of possible extinction. And when we do realize all these problems, we need to also find a way, if there is one, to reverse what we as humans have done to our planet Earth.

Although we do not know what good will happen if we reverse our terrible acts as the Israelites were told in the Torah, we need to assume that God will be on our side at that point to reward us for our good acts.

This portion also connects to my chosen Tzedakah Project organization. I am very passionate for animals and a strict vegetarian, hence the reason I chose to support Jewish Vegetarians of North America. JVNA helps many people become vegetarians and vegans to save the environment and care for Earth's creatures.

Later in the portion, the connection to JVNA increases a lot. Moses says “… a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey; a land where you may eat food without stint …” (Deuteronomy 8:8-9). This is saying that you will have endless amounts of these foods, which will be provided to the Israelites by God.

Later, Moses states that you are allowed to eat meat if you have a “desire or craving” for it but you have to kill the animal yourself and the animals will not be endless or provided by God like the other foods stated earlier. I believe that one of the reasons God says to kill the animal yourself is so that you know what it took to get you the food that you desire. This makes sure that you realize the pain that is induced when an animal has been killed.

JVNA understands that by eliminating the evil and doing the good, the world will be a much safer and happier place, as shown by this Torah portion. This story leaves us with a very important moral that does connect very well to the issues and problems most concerning in 2014. So go out and try to help the nature of the world.

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