Tuesday, January 22, 2008
This is what Uncle Dan and Aunt Jen said to Hannah toward the end of the Bat Mitzvah -
Yismech, K'sarah, Rivkah, Rachel, v'Leah. May you be like Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.
This is the prayer that parent's say to their daughters on Friday nights. It reflects parents' hopes that their daughter will take on some of the attributes of the four matriarchs, such as courage, wisdom, and loyalty. We also want these for you, and you have your own matriarchs as examples. Grandma Phyllis, mom's mother, of blessed memory, was strong, intelligent, and very creative. She had a never ending desire to understand her family tree, partly to expand it and reconnect with relatives, and also to track the source of Fanconi Anemia in the family. Safta Idell, my mother, also strong and brave, raising three children as a violin teacher and to this day, still teaching 5 days a week, and showing her commitment to music and education by generously providing her time to those who cannot afford it. My sister Dafna, who has unerring strength of character and commitment, and my sister-in-law Laurie, who has triumphed through adversity, has been able to maintain a light heart, and helps other families that are facing similar crises.
Each of these women exemplifies qualities we want for you. They have, in their own way, provided guidance for you as you move from childhood to adulthood. While every parent wants their son or daughter always to be safe and warm, we know that you will face challenges, and we want you to be prepared for them. So for you, Hannah, may you be like Phyllis, Idell, Dafna, and Laurie.
While the prayer wishing you to be like the matriarchs is spoken to daughters, we feel that the prayer for boys; may you be like Ephraim and Menashe, also has important messages for you. Like Ephraim and Menashe, you have two paternal models that can provide you with guidance. Saba Yehuda has a deep and lifelong love for Israel and the Jewish people, first smuggling Jews out of Europe to take the boats to Palestine and later fighting with the Palmach in Israel's war of independence. Pop-Pop Teddy, took care of Grandma Phyllis during her long illness and he now volunteers his time at Suburban hospital and visits hospice patients. So, Hannah, may you also be like Saba Yehuda and Pop-Pop Teddy.
Each of these relatives is deeply committed to Judaism, Jewish values, and the Jewish People. You are an inheritor of these values and it is our hope and expectation that you will care for others like Teddy, love Israel and the Jewish people like Yehuda, be as strong as Dafna and Laurie, love music like Idell, and knit like Phyllis.