Sunday, June 20, 2010

A Beautiful Bar Mitzvah

This past Shabbat we celebrated the Bar Mitzvah of my oldest son, Simcha. It was a wonderful, powerful and meaningful experience, from a number of different perspectives.
I'll spare you the boring details of who spoke when and what we ate for dinner. Suffice to say that Simcha spoke about the contrast of the Eizov and the Erez - the hyssop bush and the Cedar tree, both of which are used for the parah Adumah mixture. In a nutshell, he explained how the tall Erez referred to the attribute of haughtiness and self-confidence, while the lowly Eizov alluded to both humility and self-effacement, and how the Torah wants us to find that sweet spot between arrogance and self-negation. Nice message.
For me, the most moving aspect of the Shabbat was my aliyah, listening to my son read from the Torah. It was tremendously meaningful to have him lead me. I had the feeling that he had reached a point where he was beginning to find a level of independence that can only come after years of guidance and direction. It was a moment that you cannot buy; these moments only come with the hard work of parenting, disciplining, encouragement, not a little frustration and sweat.
But these are the best moments; the ones when you stand next to your son, watching him read from the Torah with poise and confidence, and give thanks to God for His granting you such a powerful, meaningful experience.
One other point struck me. Simcha spoke twice - he gave his drashah once in English, and then at Seudah Shlishit when we invited friends from the yishuv, he gave the same talk in Hebrew. He wrote his speech on his own (his mother helped him with some of the sources), and I just helped him clarify his ideas. But he translated the drashah entirely on his own. Watching my son deliver a drashah entirely in Hebrew - and from my point of view - in rather beautiful Hebrew, also resonated strongly with me.
We left the United States for Israel, giving up careers, family and friends, first and foremost for our children. We wanted them to connect to their Judaism and the Jewish nation in the most powerful possible way. Seeing my son deliver a sophisticated devar Torah in Israel in fluent Hebrew emphasized to me how fortunate we are to have made this challenging choice. It's wasn't easy - and it's still not easy.
But, this Shabbat it was nice to give myself the luxury of sitting back and allowing myself to enjoy the fruit of our hard work.