Bar & Batmitzvah of Samuel & Camilla De Kare-Silver
by Rabbi Dr Jeffrey M Cohen
Shabbat 10th September 2005

Congratulations to you both on attaining your Bar and Batmitzvah. To you Samuel on the excellent way you read your sidrah, maftir and haftarah, and to Camilla for the fascinating and original dvar torah on the theme of twins that you delivered so beautifully. It should be noted, Camilla, just how selflessly you deferred your Batmitzvah last year in order to share it with Samuel today. I’m sure mum and dad did not object too strongly to your decision to do so, as it has saved them the expense of two consecutive years of semachot. Most considerate of you.

I was told by your parents that it is your day, and that there was absolutely no need to refer to them. The truth is that they are 100 percent correct. There is no need to refer to them, to their qualities, their great contribution to the synagogue and to the role models that they have become to others in Stanmore. One only has to look at you both, as well as at Tifanny and Alistair, to get an idea of the powerful religious influences that they have exerted, and the middot, the sterling moral and ethical qualities that they have demonstrated and nurtured in your home.

They say that Judaism has to be caught, not just taught. And the religious joy and fervour that your parents have engendered has clearly been an inspiration to you all. I remember that when you could all just barely walk, your first expedition was to shul on Friday nights, as well as Shabbat. And, quite exceptionally, you have all continued to attend en famille, mum included every Friday night.

I am especially fortunate to have dad as my doctor. But, bearing in mind the length of time so many patients have to wait to see their GP, I am not going to sing his praises or the promptness with which he sees me, for fear of an influx of Stanmore members to his practice which might ruin the situation I currently enjoy.

Before becoming an H.E., dad served on the BOM for some 15 yrs. He was an active members of the Israel committee, he was on the regular security rota, he helped to reconstitute the Toddlers service on a weekly basis, and to lead the Children’s Service. Your dear mum, Ruth, was chair of the HaMishpachah, alias the P.A., for 3 or 4 yrs, and was also on the rota for providing teas for the midweek cheder session. My one piece of advice to you, Camilla and Samuel, is, don’t be daunted by your parents’ contribution to the community. Don’t try and keep up with them. Just overtake on the inside!

You both lead very busy lives and fill your time constructively. You, Camilla, went to our Cheder and SMILE, where you won an achievement award. You’ve been in all the Haim Potter productions. You go to Stanmore B. A. every week and to the summer and winter camps. You’ve attended Rainbows and Brownies, and Guides where you are a Patrol Leader. You love to participate in sports, and are a regularly in the netball, soccer,hockey, athletics and rounders teams for school. Your favorite sport is running, and you came first in all your races on sports day.

And Samuel, as expected, is also busily filling his time. You are interested in model making, you enjoy reading good literature, such as the Beano! (Don’t worry, I also honed my literary skills on that august magazine), and you also enjoy chess. You are a patrol leader at Scouts, and are particularly proud of the fact that your pack won the Harrow Flag at a camp in May, and that you were on the Euro-Jam in August with 800 scouts from across Europe. You enjoy your school life at Hasmo, and your favourite subjects are maths, science and geography. You have notched up some academic successes, such as winning the maths prize at Radlett Prep, and, more recently a Hasmo Platinum commendation. You also go to BA and have regularly attended their summer and winter camps.

Well, I trust the congregation now has an insight into your respective activities and Achievements, and I am sure that our members will watch your development and future successes with great interest. So let me leave you with a thought to take into your future adult Jewish lives.

Your Bar and batmitzvah sidrah speaks of the equality of all mankind, and the necessity to administer justice and charitableness to all men without a trace of partiality. Remarkably, even of the king it states, Levilti rum levavo mei’echav, ‘that his heart be not exalted over his brethren.’ The corollary of that is that we are all responsible for each other, and that community leaders have a particular responsibility to secure the safety and protection of their citizens – an issue which, as you may know, has now come to the fore in the aftermath of the disaster in New Orleans.

In your sidrah, the Torah demands accountability of national or civic leaders, and hence the reference to a situation where someone is found murdered in the open countryside. The Torah demands that the elders and leaders of the nearest town make a solemn declaration that they had not been involved in his murder could not have prevented it. The rabbis comment that it is surely inconceivable that the elders of a Jewish town should have been involved in murder – so why impute guilt to them. The answer they give is that this is essentially an acknowledgment by the elders that the slain man was not some stranger who had passed through their town, and remained without hospitality, food and shelter, to the extent that they left the town without food or drink or without proper guidance as to which routes to avoid because of lurking bandits.

Kol yisrael areivin zeh lazeh, ‘Everyone is responsible for the safety of his neighbour.’ No one can say, ‘It’s not my problem. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ The answer is an indefatigable ‘Yes, we all are.’ And that is why I would say that a government that permits, and thereby encourages, round-the-clock binge drinking, increasing the likelihood of street violence by drunkards, is guilty of a serious abdication of responsibility and of its duty to protect its citizens.

Camilla and Samuel, you have been born to parents who devote their lives to healing and helping others, to caring for those with problems, to enhancing the sense of community that we seek to foster here in Stanmore.

I am sure that this will be your goal in life also, and that, like them, you will enrich whatever circles you mix in. Remember always the message of your sidrah, and especially of the king who must view himself as no more special in the eyes of God than any of his citizens.

The truth is, that the king or queen really is no more special. Often it is the ordinary folk around us who enrich our lives far more than the so-called rich and famous. This was illustrated by a piece that I read some time ago, written by Charles Schultz, the creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip. He made his point by asking his readers to respond to a quiz.

In the first section he asked questions like: Name six people who have won the Nobel or Puliter prize; the five wealthiest people in the world; last year’s Academy Award winner for best actor; Man of the Match of the first Test Match in the current Ashes series; winner of men’s Wimbledon in 2001.

Most of his readers made a very poor showing. In truth, we hardly remember the headline makers of yesterday, however wealthy and brilliant they may be. The applause dies down and the achievements are forgotten by most of us.

He then asked them to respond to another quiz, wherein he asked such questions as, list two teachers who made the greatest impression on you throughout your school life; Name two friends who helped you through a difficult time in your youth; Name someone who became a role model for you in your professional or business life, opening your eyes to ways of doing things that greatly improved your own performance and led to greater achievement. Name a few people who made you feel particularly special.

This quiz found most people gaining full marks. The lesson was clearly that the people who make a difference in your life are not the most famous, the one’s with the most money or the most awards. They are the ones who care, the one’s who see potential in others and assist them to nurture it, the one’s who view all men as equals, as precious, as created in the image of God.

These are all the underlying messages of your sidrah. They are a wonderful blueprint and challenge for you both. I have no doubt that your sidrah is tailor made for you, and that you will internalize its message and become a great credit to your dear parents and grandparents who embrace that philosophy, and to your community whose success depends on it.