Tag Archives: tefillin

Do your kids squeeze money out of you?

I ordered donuts for my son’s class for tomorrow. My son Prince HockeyFan will be putting on tefillin for the first time in the morning (a month and a day before his 13th birthday), and the tradition these days is that they take donuts in to the class to celebrate this milestone.

A friend of mine wondered how come this has become such a celebration – in the olden days when we were all young it was a non-event. Kid went to shul, put on tefillin like everyone else and went on with his life.

My answer to when did this become a done thing? When kids realized they could squeeze even more money out of their folks than they are already doing. Truth is, folks, that you don’t want your kid to be the odd one out. If everyone else in their class brings in donuts on the day they don tefillin for the first time – don’t you want your kid to do the same? Don’t you want your child to feel as if he belongs?

For us, maybe it is a little different. My kids are still the new kids, to most intents and purposes. If he would be the only one that didn’t bring in donuts, maybe that would serve to press home the point?

I am usually NOT a follow the crowd type of person. I do my own thing and I am usually happy with that. However, I think we all want our kids to feel they have a circle of friends around them who support them and don’t judge.

But there is a limit – mostly it’s usually a financial limit. Most of the boys have a Shabbat barmitzvah AND a dinner during the week, or a luncheon or something smaller for their classmates. We are making a small affair over the barmitzvah Shabbat next month, with close family and friends. Nothing fancy – our emphasis is on the boy becoming a barmitzvah and celebrating him reaching this milestone in an appropriate fashion – appropriate for our son and our family.

2 dozen donuts isn’t going to break the bank and will make the child happy. I have no problem with it – but where does one draw the line? Is there a financial amount that you won’t go over? Where is your line?

The Club of the Tefillin Strappers

This morning, our second son, Squiggy, put on his tefillin in shul with a bracha for the first time. I did not expect to get emotional, but darn it, I am bursting with maternal pride. Watching him wind the straps around his arm, his father and his older brother watching and helping – it was a wonderful feeling and an awesome moment. Watching him daven with the menfolk all similarly tefillined – it’s like he has joined an exclusive club, one that will never have me as a member. But that’s fine. I’m quite happy not to have the obligation.

I watched as he unwrapped the tefillin with care, and slowly, painstakingly, wrapped the straps around his arm. It took a long while for him to be satisfied with how well he did the job. Then he moved on to the shel rosh, taking care not to mess up his hair. I got to watch him daven (through the mechitzah) and really shepped much yiddishe nachas! When it came time to put the tefillin away I watched the oldest take them off and wrap them up and put away in record time, but Squiggy took his time. I remember watching Lenny last year doing the same. I guess you do something day in day out you get better at it and more efficient.

We had a little l’chaim after shul – bagels and juice, nothing major, although there was scotch and vodka. I had none. At 7.30 in the morning?

It was just a perfect morning.

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Barmitzvah – the Redux

As regular readers will know, we are making another barmitzvah at the end of the summer. My two eldest sons were born 13 months and 4 days apart.

Last year was the first barmitzvah and it was awesome. I worked really hard for it to be perfect, and my son couldn’t have been happier with his weekend. He is the type of kid that likes to be centre of attention, and is not nervous at addressing a crowd.

Our second son, affectionately known in these pages as Hopalong Squiggs, is more content to be behind the scenes, out of the spotlight. But he can’t stay there now, as it’s his moment to shine.

Every child is different, every simcha is different. However some things need to remain constant. When I was reporting on last years events I commented on how well everyone got along – step families and ex spouses and new spouses etc.  I am proud that we all put aside our differences for the sake of the barmitzvah boy, and I am confident that this upcoming barmitzvah will be the same.

This barmitzvah is bittersweet in a way. It’s probably the last barmitzvah we will make in Montreal. So I guess in some ways it will be somewhat of a farewell bash too. (ok so I am already panicking that I know no caterers in Monsey, know nothing about the halls or who does tablecloths – and I have 18 months until the next barmitzvah to think about it!! And we haven’t yet moved….)

This past Shabbat was a year (in the Hebrew Calendar) since the last barmitzvah. And what a year it has been. I met and married the love of my life, and we are in the process of moving to be with him in NY. Last year I was happy at this time, happy with the person that I was, not dependant on anyone for that happiness. This year I am even happier as I have the KoD to share that joy!

I am so excited to be at Squiggy’s barmitzvah, to watch him become a man under the watchful eye of his father and stepfather and brothers and the men all gathered round the Torah. (I would love to be standing next to him too, but that’s not how we do things here). I know in my heart that I have raised him well, brought him to this point in his life to accept the responsibility of an adult Jewish man and all that entails. I am proud of the person that he is, and I am proud to have helped form him in that way.

I listen to him practice his parsha, and watch him practice putting on tefilling. He is a leftie – so he does it different from his brother. Every time I watch this I tear up. Last year this is what I wrote about my oldest laying tefillin. The feelings are no less awesome watching Squiggy put them on. In 10 days he will be putting them on in shul with a bracha in front of the community. He will put them on every day after that for as long as he lives (except Shabbat and holidays). This is an amazing undertaking, one that I as a woman cannot fully grasp. I know Rashi’s daughters are reported to have davened with tefillin – but I am not so holy that I wish to take on this mitzvah.

I have been so blessed to have so many simchas in my life. This is the third in just over a year. 2 barmitzvahs and a wedding. May it be Hashem’s will that we celebrate many many simchas together in the coming years.

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Because rolling is too much effort!!

t-sweater_bigI have seen it all now. A tefillin sweater , coz it’s just so hard to roll up your sleeve when you need to daven. Puhleeze!!

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a binding mitzvah – a mother’s view

“And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a frontlet between your eyes” Devarim 6:5 – 8


I sit there and watch him concentrate, his forehead wrinkled with effort. My son, the eldest child of my heart, is putting on his tefillin for the first time. I have already told him to expect the tears to fall, after all I am a mother who loves so deeply. I watch him lovingly and excitedly open his tallit bag, and gently remove the two tefillin boxes with their various straps. His eyes dance excitedly as he looks up briefly to check that I am watching him. He explains what he is doing as he goes along, for my benefit as much as to remind himself what he is doing.


He rolls up his left sleeve, and folds the sleeve to be just so. He carefully removes the tefillin from its storage box, and kisses it with holy reverence. He slides it up his arm and positions it in the right place. He gives me a goofy grin as he starts to wind the straps around his arm in the time honored fashion. He redoes it a few times to make the spaces as even as can be.


I am catapulted down memory lane, remembering the day my older brother put on tefillin, the same earnest look of concentration, the same joy in participating in a man’s mitzvah. They look nothing alike, my son and his uncle, yet at that moment their eyes share the same knowledge of being accepted into a new circle, the brotherhood of MAN.


The shel yad is almost done, but the shel rosh has to be put in place before it’s all finished. Out comes the trusty tefillin mirror to aid him in placing it correctly. The sofer showed him how to use his fingers in such a way to check that it is placed properly. He looks up at me and sees the tears streaming down my face. He rolls his eyes, but gently, knowing that I wouldn’t be Ima if this didn’t touch me so deeply. He looks so proud, so thrilled with the mitzvah that will be his to do very soon. He is shining, he is performing this mitzvah with such joy and love. I am proud that I have raised him for this, that I have helped him connect with the traditions of his forefathers.


My camera is snapping away, but the pictures I see with my own eyes are indelibly traced in my soul.  What an honour and a privilege to watch my own child put on tefillin. He is finally finishing with the shel yad, and is triumphant at getting it right the first time. He stands tall and allows me to drink him in, my son the barmitzvah boy, my son who is about to become a man. Never have I witnessed such joy and simcha upon doing a mitzvah, never have I felt a part of something so huge, so tied to my Jewish identity.


At this moment he is holy, he is consecrated to G-d, we both feel G-d’s presence in this room and in our hearts. This mitzvah that he has performed, and will continue to do every week day for the rest of his life, will connect his mind and his heart and his soul to do the service of Hashem.


My wish for him is that every day that he lays tefillin he will feel the joy that he feels today, he will feel the call of the ancestors to carry on our traditions, and that he will pass these traditions on to the next generation.


Mazel Tov my son, Mazel Tov.

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