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A Father's Message To His Bar Mitzva

At the bar mitzvah of one's son, the father recites a strange statement, namely, "Baruch Shep'tarani"-"Blessed is the One who exempts me from the punishment of this one." The father is declaring his "independence" from his son's transgressions. Until Bar Mitzvah, we, as parents, are responsible for all the misdeeds of our children and it is solely our responsibility to educate them and insure that they know how to properly behave. While many jokes are made about this sentiment, the bottom line is, it is troubling. It goes against logic. For which parent would not want to take the "punishment" as it were, and protect one's child. It is counter-intuitive! I even know one father who refused to say it, arguing that it was a horrible statement.
So here I was, facing down my son's becoming a bar mitzvah, and now I was in the "driver's seat" and had to come to grips with this statement. I started to really question whether or not I could sincerely say this. Maybe I could skip it or just mumble something else? After all, who would really notice? And the more I thought of it, the harder it came to say, until I remembered what I said when my parents died, namely "Blessed is the True Judge." I understood that I was not praising Hashem for killing my parents, rather I was acknowledging that I accepted that Hashem knew what He was doing. In the same way, when I would ultimately recite "Baruch She'pitarani" I was not washing my hands of my son, but rather recognizing that Hashem determined that at this age, my baby was now a "man" who would have to take everything he was taught and to act properly. It was no longer theoretical, but indeed practical.
So with joy in my heart that I had reached such a milestone and angst in hoping I, and his mother, taught him well, I said Blessed is the One who exempts me from the punishment of this one" with the confidence that Hashem knows what He is doing.

Heroes In Our Midst

While listening to one of my students practice Hebrew, I was suddenly filled with a sense of awe. My student was not a young child readying oneself for a bar/bat mitzvah, rather, it was a person in one's twilight years, rising to a personal challenge. In truth, many such people have and continue to walk through our doors, and to all of them, I myself, am greatly inspired. For it is no easy task to garner the intestinal fortitude and commit oneself to a brand new way of life after so many years.
In my experience, when people are faced with the truth, if it is not the same as their personal weltanschauung, they choose to ignore it, rather than alter their present course. While it may seem foolish to the observer, the person who is in the "driver's seat" sees it from a different perspective. One may think, "If I change course right now, it would be like admitting that my life, at present, is wrong." And who wants to admit that? The answer is "the heroes that have indeed set on a new path." It takes a lot of courage to admit one's views or mode of living is incorrect, but it is that courage which allows one to forge a new way.
As the saying goes, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step"...are you ready to take a walk?