Cheers to the Memories: Emunah’s Bat Mitzvah Speech

Shabbat Shalom

Here’s to the ones that we got
Cheers to the wish you were here, but you’re not
‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
Of everything we’ve been through
Toast to the ones here today
Toast to the ones that we lost on the way
‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
And the memories bring back, memories bring back you

Memories

“Cause the drinks bring back all the memories
And the memories bring back, memories bring back you”

Not the Levine you thought I would quote in my Bat Mitzvah speech, but Maroon 5’s lyrics gives us a deep question to consider, “Why do “drinks bring back” memories?

This question brings us to the Gemara in Sotah regarding my Torah Reading. There we learn:

Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi said “ Why are the parshiot of Nazir and Sotah right next to each other?

What is the connection between the case of the Nazir, who has sworn off wine and getting their haircut, and the case of the man who accused his wife of cheating on him and the ordeal that followed in the Temple?

Rebbe goes on to answer his question- if you saw the case of Sotah in her disgrace you too would swear yourself off of wine.

( Sotah 2a)

And why does Rebbe only identify the Nazir by their abstaining from drinking and the prohabition of coming into contact with the dead or hair cutting? Why does the case of the Sotah lead to the case of the Nazir?

In preparation for this talk my dad made me watch a bunch of videos. In one of them, Dr. Brené Brown talks about the difference between Empathy & Sympathy.

In her description, Sympathy is when we acknowledge someone’s situation. As compared to Empathy, being when we put ourselves into another person’s shoes. Sympathy might be easier but it drives disconnection. Empathy is hard work, but it fuels connection

Brown quotes the research of Theresa Wiseman who outlined the 4 critical elements of Empathy:
1- Perspective Taking: the ability to take the perspective of the other person
2- Staying out of Judgment-This is hard for many of us
3- Recognizing Emotion in other people
4- Communicating what those emotions are

Using Brené Brown’s framework of thinking, I reread my parsha. One question I had was how people show sympathy to the Sotah? People show Sympathy to the Sotah by recognizing what has happened between her and her husband.

Another recurring question I had was, how people show empathy to the Sotah? What would it mean to put yourself in the shoes of the Sotah? Going back to the teaching of Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi, it seems clear that becoming a Nazir is an act of empathy.

How does the Nazir show Empathy to the Sotah? According to the Rebbe, the Nazir shows empathy by not drinking wine. What does this mean?

What do you say when you see this?

  • The Optimist says: The glass is half full
  • The Pessimist says: The glass is half empty
  • The Realist says: The glass is too big
  • The Nazir says: I am done with drinking

According to Maroon 5, “the drinks bring back all the memories”. By giving up alcohol the Nazir is also giving up the memories of connection. It is sympathy to see the Sotah and her husband quarrel and have distrust. It is empathy to take upon yourself the life of a nazir and also give up the capacity to make connections. In this way according to Rebbe, if you saw them disconnecting, you too would feel compelled to disconnect. Just as the Sotah is suffering from disgrace, indignity, isolation, and disconnection from her husband, community, and God, the Nazir shows empathy by disconnecting from society and memories of connecting

I could imagine if I were living at the time of the Temple when they were doing a Sotah case I too would reflect on Theresa Wiseman’s 4 points on empathy:

  1. I think about how this couple is feeling. How might they both be holding some truth in their own perspective?
  2. As hard as it might be, I would stay out of judgment. In all cases of couples, there is always her perspective, his perspective, and the ever elusive truth.
  3. I would recognize the deep shame, distrust, anxiety they both experience in having their dirty laundry aired in public
  4. How would I communicate what those emotions are? It seems that the logical choice is to become a Nazir.

Today, while we do not have a Temple (or a shul) or the institution of Nazirut, we still have deep discord between partners. So how might we show couples empathy? How might we communicate to the couple what those emotions are?

I would say to them, ” I see that you tried to build a life together, and it seems that it did not work out. Communication is hard for you two. I can see that you have a lot of frustration and distrust. I can only imagine that you have a lot of dreams that did not come to fruition. I want to be here for you and with you.”

In the end we should all strive to show up, to show empathy, and to connect with those we care about. Thank you all.

1 Response to “Cheers to the Memories: Emunah’s Bat Mitzvah Speech”



  1. 1 What the Eye Sees: Manoah, Noah, and Emunah | Said to Myself Trackback on June 15, 2022 at 7:37 am

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