When younger, many of us had to listen to the “pearls of wisdom” our parents would often share. Too often, however, we shrugged them off. And, then, at some point in our lives everything they said comes true. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
Well, the first thing my parents (and many others) said to me when my first child was born was that “children grow up so fast.” We have all heard it before. There are many days you wish they would grow up faster, and then, suddenly, you look back and wonder where the time went. And now I am living it. This weekend my oldest child will become a bat mitzvah. An “adult” in Jewish tradition who is now responsible for herself and upholding the mitzvot.
I cannot believe it. Seems like yesterday she was a newborn. Now she is (almost) as tall as I am…much brighter…more creative…and a beautiful young lady transitioning into her teen years (and that brings its own challenges).
I understand I am not the first person to watch his/her child enjoy this simcha (joyous occasion) and milestone in their life. And, this is certainly one of those “proud days” as a Jewish parent. Many of you understand exactly what I am talking about and can sense our excitement and joy.
This also means I am getting older. I find it hard to believe I celebrated my bar mitzvah 32 years ago. It was wonderful celebrating with family members and friends. I even have the VHS video (but, unfortunately, no longer a VCR to play it on) as a memento of the occasion. I would post clips on YouTube, yet I would be embarrassed for you all to see my fashion sense and haircut back in the early 1980s.
I remember the rabbi telling me how important that day was and what a huge moment it was in my life. Moreover, he told me how much nachas (pride) I brought to my parents. There is no doubt it was a “big weekend.” For sure it is a major achievement for any child at the age of 13 to stand on the bima (raised platform in the synagogue) and lead the congregation. But the true measure of this experience does not come from how one “performs,” but rather what one does in all the days that follow.
This ties into this week’s Torah portion – Shoftim (Judges). It has a famous line – “Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof – Justice, justice you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:18). It is the responsibility of each of us to do what is “right” in all our years.
As I was thinking about what to share with my daughter on her bat mitzvah, a friend of mine sent me the following that one father shared with his child on her bat mitzvah – I believe these “pearls of wisdom” apply to everyone.
Winnie the Pooh once said, "You are braver than you believe, you are stronger than you seem, and you are smarter than you think."
Braver: For the rest of your life you are going to be challenged more than you ever thought imaginable. I promise that if you continue to tackle these challenges with all the bravery you can muster, you will make it look easy. And don't be afraid to fail, either. Failing at something doesn't matter. It's how you perceive your failure, and how you act on the wisdom gained from that perception, that ultimately define and redefine you, and make you who you are.
Stronger: Do not talk yourself into not being you. I promise that, if you are true to yourself, being YOU will bring out all the good that is inside. Be prepared, stand tall and strong, and you will accomplish anything you set out to do.
Smarter: You are smart enough to know where you are going. But your dreams at age 13 may not be the ones you have when you head to college. Or when you leave school. Or when your parents finally kick you out of the house. Your destiny may take a different shape as you grow older, and your interests may change as you experience new things.
Right now you may think you know exactly what you want to do when you grow up, but at some point those dreams are going to change. But whatever happens, I promise there's a reason. And I promise you will figure it out. And, I promise it's going to be good. I also promise that, wherever your dreams take you, your parents are here to support you.
And I guess that is where I am today. The supportive parent. Apparently I have been practicing this for the past 13 years, and now it is really sinking in.
Aliyah, we are so proud of you and all you continue to accomplish. You make your family very proud each and every day. And I am grateful for all the people in your life who have helped mold and shape you – teachers, friends, family members, rabbis, etc. – and reinforced in you a love of Judaism and the Jewish people. Keep pursuing justice and help make our world a better place. I know you will!
Shabbat shalom and best wishes for a safe and enjoyable Labor Day weekend.