Tag Archives: speech

Olympic Meshugass!

I actually listened to the rabbi’s speech today in shul, and most of what he said ticked me off. Maybe it’s just me, or maybe he is usually controversial and I never listened before.


First he talked about being Jewish – that in order to be counted as being Jewish one has to keep the mitzvoth. What? In my understanding if your mother is Jewish, that makes you Jewish whether you keep one mitzvah, 613 mitzvoth or none. I guess his point was really that if the Jews don’t keep mitzvoth there will be no Judaism left. But saying you are not Jewish if you do not perform mitzvoth was wrong. No wonder secular Jews sometimes feel alienated from organized religion, if this is the prevailing attitude,


Then he decided to lambast the Olympics, calling the amazing feats of athletic prowess “meshugass”, ridiculing the respect we have for people who can jump higher, run faster, dive cleaner etc. Apparently according to the rabbi, this is totally wrong. We shouldn’t admire anyone who obviously has these talents because it has nothing to do with who we are as Jews. We should admire people because of their Jewishness, their fear of G-d, their belief in Him, and their daily struggles in order to serve Him. Surely a person who is faster, can jump higher etc is blessed by G-d, surely these are G-d given talents? Ok, maybe worshipping them is too much, but how can anyone fail to see G-d’s gift in Michael Phelps’s swimming? There is something totally unworldly and beyond the norm in that. There were many Jewish Olympians this year – should we not be proud? Is the rabbi saying we should be ashamed to put any emphasis on physical accomplishments?


I am guessing that this rabbi, well into his 70s, has a different mind-set than I do, and sees evil and anti-Jewishness everywhere he looks. What I really hate about rabbi’s sermons is that there is no Q and A period after, that there is no arguing with his point of view. The rabbi speaks, the service continues, and I am left to stew with my thoughts. Of course, I could have discussed it with him after mussaf, at the Kiddush, but would he have spoken to me, a mere woman? Not just a woman, but one with an opinion too. Perish the thought! This Rabbi seems to be all fire and brimstone. I hate that.

What a weekend!!

My son’s barmitzvah was phenomenal. The whole weekend went swimmingly well. It all appeared effortless and seamless – do you have any idea how much work it takes to get there? Effortless take endless effort….but I did it.


It could not have been more perfect. My son did a fine job with his torah reading, his speech was warm, loving, emotional – as he thanked his parents he choked up, and I doubt there was a dry eye in the house. I didn’t notice because I was way too busy bawling my eyes out…such a sap. My speech was well received. My son’s dad spoke about the importance of menschlichkeit in this world – I see already that #1 son is a mensch, there were so many instances over the weekend where he proved it.


#1 son also made a siyyum – he finished learning Seder Moaid in honour of his barmitzvah – this was a huge accomplishment, took him 8 months to complete all the learning for it. One of his rebbes was on hand to give a short speech, and he spoke of #1 son with such love and affection and yes, even respect. It was a very touching moment.


He told me tonight that he felt the love in the room at the meals. He really felt it, the warmth, the adoration, the caring – everyone who was a part of our simcha was there out of love for him and his parents. There was no awkwardness as there could have been, with divorced parents, blended families, etc. Every one got along, because we were all there for my son. This was his moment to shine, and shine he did.


He davened for the Amud many times over the last few days – and intends to lead the community in prayer many more times in the future.


I am so proud of him for all he has achieved. It was just a perfect barmitzvah. Yes there were issues that happened, but nobody else knew about them, and it didn’t spoil the main events. I had a major wardrobe malfunction (I bent to pick something up and heard rip rip rip – skirt ripped big time) 5 minutes before leaving for shul, which necessitated a total change of clothing for me – but nobody knew.


Standing there greeting my guests – my face started to hurt from the grinning I was doing. I was just so darn happy to be where I was, to know I have 4 wonderful sons who are growing up to be fine young men, to know that my eldest son has done me proud, but more importantly, he did himself proud. It was nice hearing the congratulations from people on what a fine son I have raised. It was also wonderful that people complimented me on how lovely I looked – I have some self image issues, what woman doesn’t, but at the barmitzvah they disappeared. I knew that I was shining from within. (Wish there was a pill you could take to get that glow when you really need it).


G-d blessed me and my family this weekend, and I am eternally grateful for His abundant blessings. May we all celebrate many simchas together, Amen!

Ima’s Speech

Welcome, bruchim habaim, Shabbat shalom, good shabbes……


Honoured rabbis, family and friends. What a wonderful day this is, and how awesome a gift it is to share it with all of you.  I want to welcome all of you, and thank you for the effort you all have made to come and share in our simcha.


I want to wish a personal mazel tov all the grandparents, on the barmitzvah of your eldest grandchild. What a wonderful day this must be for you. May you shepp much yiddishe nachas from all your grandchildren. May we all celebrate many more smachot together. Amen.


The last few months have been so very busy with planning and lists, and lists of lists, all leading up to this glorious day. Today our bechor has officially become a man according to Jewish tradition.


Son #1, watching you grow up these last 13 years has been such a wonderful honour and privilege, and to know that you follow in our footsteps in your close relationship with G-d is a blessing beyond belief.  Son #1, you have always been older than your years, you have displayed a thirst for knowledge about everything that is never satisfied. I love how tenacious you can be when looking for answers, when seeking the truth. You always listen to me, even though you know I can’t make you do anything seeing as you are now bigger than me. You work hard every day to try and make my life a little easier. You bring me joy every single day of your life. You are a fine example to your younger brothers, and I know sometimes their hero worship can get a little grating, but most of the time you take it in your stride. I am so proud of who you are, Son #1, and so very blessed to have had the privilege of raising you, of seeing you grow and develop, of seeing you achieve your personal goals.


I remember the Friday night after you were born, Sweetie, so clearly. I remember bensching you for the very first time, both Abba and I had tears rolling down our faces.


We blessed you, our son, that G-d should make you like Ephraim and Menashe. We asked G-d to bless you, and to watch over you. We asked him to shine His face towards you and show you favour. We asked G-d to be favourably disposed towards you, and then we asked him to show you Peace. We have continued to bless you and your brothers this way every Friday night. Every time I say the words I am moved.


Why do we bless our sons that they should be like Ephraim and Menashe. Who were these men that we want our sons to emulate them? They were the sons of Yosef, who was the second youngest son of Yaakov. What was so special about them? They were the only two of Yaakov’s grandsons that had tribes named after them. Yaakov looked upon them as sons rather than grandsons. Through reading and studying I have learned that these two brothers were possibly the first brothers in the history of the world to live together without rivalry. We all know about Cain and Abel, Yitzchak and Yishmael, Yaakov and Esav,  and Yoseph’s brothers, well, they sold him into slavery. Talk about rivalry there!


In Tehillim (psalms) it says “how good and pleasant it is for brothers to sit peacefully together”. Surely this is a remez, a hint, to Ephraim and Menashe and the good example that they set.


Ephraim and Menashe always worked towards the greater good of the community, always putting their own personal needs aside. They worked side by side and never allowed ego to get the best of them.


We are also told Ephraim and Menashe were born and raised to maturity outside of Eretz Yisrael, in Egypt, a place rife with immorality and corruption. Despite their environment they held steadfast to their Jewish values and did not compromise their beliefs. It must have been difficult for them at times, but they held true. In this world there will be many temptations to stray from the path of truth, and blessing our sons in this manner reminds them, indeed it strengthens them by remembering the commitment these two forbears had to yiddishkeit, never compromising, never wavering, not even for a second.


I would like to take a moment to address 3 very special people who have not yet been mentioned. Son #2, Son #3 and Son #4. You have all been so understanding and accepting of Son #1’s moment in the spotlight. You have shown no jealousy nor rivalry, and for that I thank you. Son #2, don’t get too comfortable where you are, 13 months from now it’s your turn, you had better start learning soon, and yes you will have to wear a suit then too. Thank you for being you, for your loving hugs and cuddles, for your unending devotion to my cooking. Your smile makes my heart sing.  Son #3, you have a while to go till it is your turn and I know you want to be all grown up already, but you are at a wonderful age and I want you to enjoy being a kid for a while longer ok? Carry on laughing your magical laugh for it warms my very soul. Son #4, where are the words to tell you how yummy and cute and delicious you are, and how your excitement for every little discovery you make translates to a smile in my heart? I love you.


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.


Son #1, sweetheart, from the bottom of my heart, I wish you a sincere mazel tov on your barmitzvah. You have worked hard and earned your moment in the spotlight. I am so very proud of you. I love you so very much.


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!