It’s the day after your bar mitzvah, and I’m still on the emotional high I’ve been riding for the past week. Somehow, I always forget how powerful the wave of love and pride is that comes along with seeing one of your kids take such a terrific step towards adulthood and independence.
Predictably, I guess, many people who couldn’t make it to the bar mitzvah have called today or come over to ask about it all, and especially to ask “so? How was he?” Of course, I know what they are asking. They want to know how your leining went, how you did at reading the Torah and the haftara (additional reading).
It’s a question that seems so out of place to me now. It’s true – your Torah reading, the haftara and your bar mitzvah speech were all terrific. But my love for you and my pride at being your abba has not changed at all since you came into our lives 13 years ago, and it has nothing to do with your performance yesterday. Before you’d done anything more than nursed and cried, my soul swelled with pride and happiness – not because of a performance you’d given, but rather because of who you were, who you are.
I guess now, the only thing that has changed is that all those emotions have grown stronger as you’ve grown and developed. For the past several weeks, and especially since Shabbat ended, the only thing I’ve been able to think about has not been “how did you do?”, but rather “what are you like?” Because for me, your performance on Shabbat morning was nice. But it was nothing more than a cherry on the top of a terrific, sweet, rich cake that is called Idan.
I’ve thought so much about this over the past few months – you bring so much happiness into my life, and into the lives of everybody who knows you well. There is nobody I enjoy being silly with more than you – no matter how many times I make the same stupid face at you, you still react with the same oversized harrumph and you try not to laugh. It doesn’t always work. The staring contests you challenge me to might be the most ridiculous game anybody has every asked me to play. I don’t think you’ve ever lasted a second, but the joy in your eyes when we do things together is worth more to me than any Torah reading.
When I do silly stuff around your friends, you pretend that it drives you nuts and embarrasses you, but I’m pretty sure it’s mostly a game. You still invite them to the house whenever you can, so I guess it can’t be all bad.
As I said to you on Shabbat, the fact that you were very nervous actually added to the experience because it showed that you really took the bar mitzvah seriously and understood the hugeness of becoming a halachically-responsible young man. To you, your nerves were very annoying, but to me they were a terrific sign that you are an individual with depth and feeling, and the ability to recognise an issue that requires seriousness and commitment.
So I guess my main answer to the people who have asked “how was he?” is to ignore their question, and only to answer the question “how IS he.” And to that question, there is a long list not only the reasons I love you, but also so the very many reasons I like you and all the reasons I enjoy spending time with you, all the different ways that you bring happiness and laughter into our lives into our family.
My boy, I think the only thing we didn’t say at the bar mitzvah is that your 13th birthday is not an end, but a beginning. May God grant you a long, healthy life of happiness and satisfaction, the ability to figure out your interests and the abilities to set goals and achieve them, and may you look back at your bar mitzvah day as one of the highlights of your life, Amen.