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A Covid Era Bar Mitzvah Wish

Friday, 3 July, 2020 - 12:20 pm

Canva - Jewish dawn prayer.jpgThis week the parents of one of my Bar Mitzvah students who have had to revise and reschedule long planned Bar Mitzvahs, asked their son what he would like to do on his upcoming 13th birthday to make the day itself special. They told me that offered him various fun activities and options, but instead he responded that what he wants to do on that day, is to go to Chabad and wrap Tefillin for the first time in his life.

When I heard that, I was overjoyed and very touched on many levels and I will explain why.

I know it has been challenging for the record amount of Bar & Bat Mitzvah students that we have during 2020 as their Bar & Bat Mitzvahs that they had planned for so long, have to be rescheduled, altered and re-planned. Big parties have been canceled, exciting celebrations that were anticipated have been delayed and the future still remains unknown for how much can be planned.

Like with anything else in life, there is the core essence of the meaning of the day and then there are the bonuses and the extras.

For a boy, putting on Tefillin as he becomes an adult male, represents a connection with the Mitzvot of the Torah that is profound, deep and historic. Donning the simple black leather boxes and straps which contain the precious handwritten scrolls, and placing them on our heads and next to our heart, represent part of the depth of our relationship with the Divine that words themselves can’t explain. As we wear them and recite the prayer of the Shema, we are meant to think about the oneness of G-d and the universe and contemplate our personal relationship with G-d. We continue with the verses of the Shema that describe how loving G-d and G-d’s goals for humanity, should be at the core and foundation of our lives and what we convey to our children. Finally we conclude with the message of learning to live with these words each and every day of our lives, placing these words in Tefillin which we can wear and installing them on the doorposts of our homes.

Indeed, sometimes the most profound moments in our relationship with our Judaism and G-d, come from the Mitzvot that at times seem like the most abstract. Countless times I have helped people wrap Tefillin and say the prayer of the Shema, only to see the floodgates of tears and emotions open up, as something deep is turned on and ignited.

Judaism is certainly built around deeds and actions and is based on principles regarding the love of our fellow and how we make the world be what it should be. Yet at its core Judaism is built on faith and a meaningful relationship with the Divine.

This faith represents a loyalty to the Divine purpose and obligations with which we have been entrusted that is not disappearing with the next wind of change or reconfigured to match any particular time frame of history. Rather, it represents an underlying truth and essence that has carried us through the ages and been our rock and anchor that has enabled us to navigate storms, challenges and the dramatic changes that humanity has experienced. It has enabled us to grow even when dealing with adversity, and to come out on the other side and keep progressing with tranquility and strength to bring the Divine vision to its potential on a personal and global sense.

Judaism has many dimensions to it, and besides the importance of action, it definitely includes knowledge, learning and pushing our minds to the ultimate degree as we study Torah and seek to understand the depths of the universe. Yet the wholeness of Judaism and what it can offer us, come from pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zone, beyond the space where our own logic rules, and into a space where it becomes a meaningful relationship and commitment to the Divine.

Thus when my student said that his main goal on the day of his Bar Mitzvah was to come and wrap the Tefillin and say the Shema, I knew he had struck gold, and was so grateful that the beginning of his journey as a Jewish adult is starting on a very deep and powerful note. I know that a student who will tune in to his spiritual core, is a student who will develop into a young adult that will translate his spiritual identity and connection into deeds and action.

Mazal Tov to all of the Bar & Bat Mitzvah students who are reaching these milestones during the Coronavirus.

Your determination to celebrate and appreciate this milestone for what it truly represents is inspiring and will surely pave the way for a bright future for you and the world which you are starting to shape.

Good Shabbos / Shabbat Shalom


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