This past Shabbat I celebrated with my family the bar mitzvah of my niece’s oldest child.
The bar mitzvah took place in the Old City of Jerusalem which made the event simply perfect; being in the holiest place on earth celebrating the continuity of being a G-d-fearing Jew.
What is so special about a bar mitzvah? Why are we so eager to hear the bar mitzvah boy read from that week’s portion of the Torah? Why are we so pleased to hear him be the shliach tzibbur – the leader of the congregation in the services?
This little man who just turned 13 went from being a child to becoming a man, part of the minyan – which is being part of 10 men who can make up the morning, afternoon and evening prayers. He is now responsible for his own actions and is no longer under his parent’s responsibilities as far as the good and otherwise not good deeds he does throughout his life.
As I was sitting at the Kotel listening to this sweet bar mitzvah boy pray and read from the Torah I marveled at how amazing it is to be a Jew. At how wonderful the Almighty is that He gave us the Torah which guides us every step of the way.
We are living in an ever-changing generation where almost every day we hear of new technologies that are coming about and being updated. The computer and smart phone era has transformed the world into a fast and technically intellectual generation. A child of two can already figure out how to watch a show on the phone. Technical intelligence has grown while emotional and personal intelligence and interaction with others has lessened. We spend so much time on our phones and on our computers that we forget to look around and see how lucky we are that we are alive and well.
People walk down the street with their heads in their phones, sit on the bus or train and are immersed in their laptops or tablets. People wait on line in a shop or a doctor’s office and no one looks around to even see who is sitting in the chair next to them, let alone be able to notice others around them that might need a helping hand, to cross the street, to lift a heavy package, or to give up their seat for an elderly person who might be standing right next to them.
The Torah, on the other hand, is the most intellectual, technical and emotional way of life that we will ever see. The Torah never changes its contents and yet it always fits each and every generation. The Torah was given to us so many thousands of years ago and it’s suitable for us here in the year 2020 just as it was suitable for us as we received it on Mount Sinai so many years ago.
When a boy turns 13 and a girl 12 they are obligated to keep and to obey the laws that are written down in the Torah. This connection to the Torah and to being a Jew is what makes the Jewish people live forever and never die.
As I was listening to all the beautiful speeches that were given at the bar mitzvah, one of the main themes that kept repeating itself was the name of the bar mitzvah boy and who he was named after, who his ancestors were, and what it is about this special bar mitzvah boy that made him so outstanding. What was so significant about a late great-grandfather, and what made this young man set aside from so many other boys the same age around the world? The Torah!
This is what sets him apart and this is what sets us apart from the other nations. This is why our ancestors who have passed away so many years ago are still with us and are still setting the right path in which we should walk on. Despite the ever-changing times that we live in, when we choose to follow the path of the Torah that never changes, we are actually choosing the path of life. In this path we always know how to act. We always know what the right and wrong thing to do is and in essence we never really die since we are always passing on to our children and they to theirs, the secret of life which is the Torah and all it entails.
The sweet bar mitzvah boy who was only 13, was the representative of all the special and holy Jews who came before him. This wonderful bar mitzvah boy was carrying on the Torah path that was set for us so many years ago at Mount Sinai. This Torah-fearing boy is keeping Klal Yisrael alive by going in the footsteps of his ancestors.
From the beginning of time, so many empires have risen and fallen. And yet since the time of Avraham Avinu the Jewish nation has grown and will never fall. And this is because little young men like my special nephew keep the Torah life shining high.
The Torah keeps us focused that even if we are living in these fast times where everything around us changes so quickly, following the Torah will always keep us connected to doing the right things; to seeing the other person in need of a helping hand, to notice the person who needs a seat on the bus and so on. With the Torah we will always see what is going on around us.
I’m so honored that I had the merit to see another Jew join the “work force” of keeping the Torah life alive.
May my nephew have the merit of seeing many generations of children and great grandchildren all following in his footsteps of Torah as well.