I am sure that there are plenty of occasions in a child’s life where their parents are proud, be it a school play, a random act of kindness, or just simply being themselves.
Lately I find myself filled with awe, wonder and pride, as I watch all my kids grow and evolve. The recent holiday of Simchat Torah just added to these tremendous heartwarming feelings.
Pigeon had been talking non stop for the past few days about how this was his first year being able to dance with the Sefer Torah as he was now barmitzvah. Last year the rabbi promised him that this year he could, and he intended to remind the rabbi just in case he forgot. He hadn’t.
Simchat Torah night he came over to the gap in the mechitzah, beckoning me to him, with a shy grin on his face. ”Ima watch me, I am going to dance with the Torah”. I think he floated back to the men’s side. Sure enough, one of the men in the shul helped him heft the Torah into his arms, and showed him how to hold it safely. Once all the Sifrei Torah were given out, the men started to circle the Bima. For a split second I lost sight of my son in the sea of men with suits and hats – he is as big as some of them, he totally blended in. But as far as I could see there was only one “man” with an otherworldly glow to him, and that was my son. He felt the honour of holding the sacred Torah scroll, he felt the awe and responsibility, and he felt blessed to have had the chance to participate physically in this mitzvah.
The other boys were also enjoying the Simcha of the day – with gorging on candies, being thrown up in the air for “Moshe Emes” (I still cringe when I see little kids flying up – even though I know their daddies will catch them). At one point Puffin came to me, and it was so hard not to laugh – he had been thrown up in the air by a couple of the guys and his knee bumped into his nose – It takes a special kind of talent to be able to do that! A kiss from Ima and he ran back to dance with his little friends.
Simchat Torah day this Mama got to shepp even more yiddishe nachas. After the dancing was done, they did the Torah reading, and as is tradition everyone (every male) gets called up to the Torah. When they are calling up the teen boys they tend to go in order of age (oldest to youngest), and when they get to the really young ‘uns, they bundle them all onto the Bima, hold a few tallitot over their heads, and include them together in the bracha. This aliyah is usually auctioned off, and is called Kol HaNeorim – the voice of the young. I was expecting my oldest three to each have an aliyah. They called me to come to the hall where they were reading the Torah (sometimes they read multiple torahs in order that they have opportunity to call everyone up for an aliyah). I pulled up a chair, the only woman around, as the other women stayed in the main sanctuary. I was later joined by another lady, as intent on shepping nachas from her boys as I was.
So first Pigeon had his turn – he knows the brachot inside out, having done them a gazillion times, but knowing I was watching, he gave me a shy little smile, and sang his bracha loud and clear. Once he was done, he shook hands with the men around him, and came over to me with a huge grin on his face. So proud of himself. Then came a few kids, then it was Duckie’s turn. He wrapped himself in the tallit and tossed off the bracha like he had been doing it all his life. Didn’t look at me, nor acknowledge me – so not cool to do that. But I think he was glad that I watched and heard him. His barmitzvah is in 11 months, so it was good practice. Soon it was Woodie’s turn, and he looked tiny wrapped in a man size tallit. But I have to say, he did me proud too – sang the brachot without a problem. He glanced back once or twice to check that I was there. Once he was done, he shook my hand. (Kissing your mom is so passé when you are 10).
So I figured my little Puffin would go on the Bima with all the other little kids. But he was asked if he wanted to have his own aliyah. Being six years old, with 3 older brothers, he always wants to do what they do; basically, he wants to just be them. So when offered the chance to have an aliyah he said yes. His brothers wrapped him in the tallit, and my heart swelled to see the look on his face. He was nervous because he hadn’t ever done it before, but here was his chance to prove he is one of the big boys. I asked the father of one of his friends to help him with the bracha, but it turned out to be unnecessary as all the men were so encouraging as they all helped him say his bracha. He stood there, as tall as he could stand, tallit floating around him, an aura of joy and wonder around him. Once he had finished his aliyah he came running to me “did you see, did you see? I had an aliyah just like a man!!” I hadn’t realized I was crying, but my face was wet. I had been blessed to watch all my boys participate in the same mitzvah in their own particular way. I watched as my youngest child entered into some kind of inner sanctum with his brothers, into a place that I would never be part of. And in that moment, it is no wonder that I cried, for my little guy is no longer a baby, but a little man who made a bracha on the Torah. I know the years will fly by and soon enough it will be his barmitzvah. But I want to always remember this moment, the joyous rapture on his face when he was asked if he wanted to be part of this mitzvah. It had not even occurred to him that he could be part of it.
While sometimes I get upset and sad that as a woman there are parts of my sons’ lives that I cannot partake in, sometimes just getting to watch them do their thing is enough. The pride I feel that they are continuing tradition, that I have been able to imbue in them the love and respect for their religion – that is reward enough.
May we all continue to derive nachas and joy from our children, from our families and from all of Israel. Amen!