Tag Archives: pride

Of Torahs and Tallitot

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!


I wrote my speech this week, the one that I am planning to give at the barmitzvah. I had no idea that it would be as emotionally wracking as giving birth. I love to write, I love words, I love creating with the gift of words. I am hardly ever at a loss for words. Yet every time I have sat down to write this speech, I have been unable to verbalize my feelings. How can you write about unconditional love in words? How does something so profound, so much a part of who I am, get reduced to a few sentences, and have justice done to it??


I had some ideas for what I wanted to say, and I know I had to include a dvar torah, being a religious occasion and all. I didn’t want to say a drash on the week’s parsha, because I am sure the rabbis and other speakers will all do that, my son too. I wanted to do something different (hey I have to be me) but appropriate.


After the Barmitzvah is over, I will reprint the speech here. Hopefully it won’t be tear stained on your screen. But I wanted to share with you the main idea, because I cannot explain how it occurred to me, it just appeared through my fingers.


Every Friday night in many religious households the parents bless their children. They put their hands on the child’s head and ask G-d to bless them to be like Efraim and Menashe – for boys, and like Sara, Rivka, Rochel and Leah – for girls. It’s a very moving time, and I feel a tear in my eye with each child I bensch, every single time. I always end off by telling the boys that I love them (and usually leave them a huge lipsticked kiss in the centre of their foreheads)


So I decided to take this idea of bensching them, and find out why these specific men are to be emulated, and turn it into an appropriate dvar torah. It has a wonderful message to it, all about sibling unity, loving your brother as yourself, staying steadfast in Judaism no matter the exterior temptations etc. I think it is a wonderful and applicable message to a barmitzvah boy, especially who is one of four brothers.


Of course I added the requisite praise for my barmitzvah boy, and I also included a sentence or two for each of his brothers. It won’t be a long speech, but it will definely give the guests a glimpse into this mother’s heart, into how she feels on such a wondrous day.


Here is a brief excerpt:

“I am so blessed to stand before you all today. I make this promise in front of all of you. I will continue to raise my sons in the warmth and love of Yiddishkeit, I promise to do my best to continue to imbue in them a sense of belonging to their people. I thank G-d for His abundant gifts, and I thank Him for the opportunity of having these children in my life. While we may never know what’s in store for us, I have faith that it will all be for the good.”


I am hoping to speak just before my son, and to have the honour of introducing him. He told me he was sad in a way that my speech is happening on Shabbat – he wanted to videotape it and keep it for posterity. I haven’t let him read it, and have promised nothing it contains will embarrass him. I honestly hope I can make it through without crying too much.


A sweet little story. We were at the store this week picking up his altered suit and ties and stuff. He was so excited. I hugged him and said “son, I am so proud of you” (yes, tears in my eyes) and he said “Ima, why? Coz I was born?” and I said that that was exactly why. He rolled his eyes and thought I was weird. I told him that when he will be a mother he will understand 😉 . I truly am proud of him for being born, for being the boy he is, I am so honoured and privileged to be called Ima by the four most amazing sons in the universe. Being a mother is so much more than anything a word, a sentence, a book, could ever say.


Shabbat Shalom!