A letter to my great-nephew Yonadav, on January 1, 2022, the day of his Bar mitzvah in Jerusalem, Israel.
God spoke to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as El Shaddai, but I did not make Myself known to them by My name Adonai. I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they lived as sojourners. I have now heard the moaning of the Israelites because the Egyptians are holding them in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. Say, therefore, to the Israelite people: I am the LORD. I will free you from the labours of the Egyptians and deliver you from their bondage. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and through extraordinary chastisements. And I will take you to be My people, and I will be your God. And you shall know that I, the LORD, am your God who freed you from the labours of the Egyptians: I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and I will give it to you for a possession, I am the LORD.”
– The first nine verses of Parshat Vaera.
My dear Yonadav, as I read these words, it is as if Hashem is speaking directly to you. He is sharing not what he will do to save Israel from the Egyptians but what he has done for you within your lifetime. Seventy years ago, your grandparents were suffering the “pains and pangs of bondage,” the slavery of the Nazis. And today, you are living and growing up with total freedom, in the land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the very land that Hashem promised to your forefathers!
My dear Yonadav, you are no different from Baby Moses, who was set adrift by his mother in a small basket on the Nile River: Because each of us, in some way, is born into an unpredictable and even dangerous world. Yet, with God’s help and your family and community, we have lived to see this special day of your bar mitzvah. As a result, you have grown up to become a “Gibor Yisrael,” a hero of Israel.
Today, we are still in a worldwide pandemic with dangers. So how do we respond to it? Living to the best of our ability with prayer and a song each day. This is best exemplified by the Psalms sung each day in the Jerusalem Temple of old, which we continue to include daily in our morning prayers.
On Sunday, the first day of the week, they used to sing:
“The earth is the LORD’s and all that it holds, the world and its inhabitants.”
The theme is gratitude for the beautiful world gifted to us.
On Monday, the second day, we say:
“Hashem is great and much acclaimed in the city of our God, His holy mountain.” (Psalm 24)
We are grateful for the gift of our Jewish legacy, the Torah.
On Tuesday, the third day, we sang:
“God stands in the congregation of the Almighty. In the midst of the judges does He judge to see if they will judge in accordance with the truth.” (Psalm 82)
We are grateful for our system of courts and judges – the potential for social justice.
On Wednesday, the fourth day, we say:
“God of retribution, Hashem, God of retribution, appear! Rise up, judge of the earth, Give the arrogant their deserts!” (Psalm 94)
We pray for Ultimate Justice, vengeance, and grace in God’s hands.
On Thursday, the fifth day, we say:
“Sing joyously to God, our strength; Raise a shout for the God of Jacob.” (Psalm 81)
Here, we focus on the gifts of creativity – the arts and music.
On Friday, the sixth day, we say:
“Hashem is king, He is robed in grandeur; He is girded with strength. The world stands firm; It cannot be shaken.” (Psalm 93)
The theme is ultimate faith and trust in Hashem’s loving care for his universe.
On the seventh day, Shabbat, we say:
“It is good to praise the Divine, to sing hymns to Your name, O Most High, To proclaim Your steadfast love at daybreak, Your faithfulness each night.” (Psalm 92)
We focus on communion with Hashem through rest, joy, and rejuvenation. What can be better?
I bless you today to continue in your path of Torah and mitzvot, bringing pride and joy to all who know you.
And, a great thank you and blessing to your loving parents who have raised you to arrive on this special day.