Friday, July 4 - Bar Mitzvah at the Kotel

Okay, this was an awesome day! Read the title, need I say more?

Now first and foremost, Mazal Tov to Eduardo Gorinstein, his parents and his grandmother for this beautiful celebration of Rosh Chodesh Tammuz and Eduardo’s receiving his Tefillin. Marking the transition from childhood to young adulthood, we celebrate and rejoice this very special Bar Mitzvah.

Having said that, on many levels this Bar Mitzvah offers hope that the world has a future even brighter and more beautiful than the past or present. Anytime a young person transitions to a new phase of a life, a new status, it offers hope for the future – especially when the young person is as bright, insightful, caring, sensitive as Eduardo. He will be celebrating his Bar Mitzvah at Ohr Shalom in a few months, but with the opportunity presented by his families trip to Israel this summer shortly after his thirteen birthday, Eduardo decided to do it celebrate the Rosh Chodesh during his trip with Tefillin. Taken all together, between this service and the services he will lead at Ohr Shalom, this young man is leading a lot of services and chanting a lot of Torah.

AND WE DID IT AT THE WALL.

The Temple has stood for nearly two thousand years as a sign of destruction. The Wall itself has been a place representing some of the most difficult tensions within the State of Israel. On the one hand, it is a site of deep Kedushah (holiness), on the other hand it is also a divisive place that is symbolic of the stranglehold a very narrowly defined view of Orthodoxy has over certain aspects of life in Israel.

But the Conservative Movement now has access to part of the Western Wall for minyanim as we observe them. Just a little south of the ramp that leads up to the Temple Mount, there is an area called “The Jerusalem Archaeological Park/Davidson Center” and with reservations, we can have egalitarian (yes, boy and girls together) minyanim. It is where the Women of the Wall pray.

The Jerusalem Archeological Park

It is where Eduardo Gorinstein put on his Tefillin for the first time and became a Bar Mitzvah.

Like I said, it was awesome!

The Gorinsteins were a small travelling group, so Jennifer, my kids, their tour guide David and a number of my rabbinic colleagues helped make the minyan. For each of us, it was our first Bar Mitzvah at the wall – and it was incredible!

On this on the day that we as Americans celebrate our independence – moving our history and world history forward in our collective pursuit of a just, secularly redeemed world. (Happy 4th of July!)

Thank you for everybody to help making this morning so incredible!

After the davening David led us to this whole in the wall restaurant – this restaurant is literally part of the rock walls of the Old City (not the Kotel itself), so we really felt like we were in a hole in the wall.

It was a very good lunch indeed.

At lunch, my charming little son got frustrated when he tried to order a certain soft drink (yes our children who do not drink sodas anywhere else, are allowed to drink them in Israel. Far be it from me to use soft drink or sweets to help my children or people in general have positive associations with things I think are sacred – like Israel. I wonder if it could work for services . . .). He expressed his frustration in a manner that seemed appropriate to him (remember, his is four).

The net result? This young, attractive waitress returned with a plate full of fancy, foo-foo chocolates as a peace offering (seems like an appropriate metaphor considering we were only a few hundred yards from the Temple Mount). Nadiv looked up at her, batted his long eye lashes, flashed his pearly whites as he said thank you, and this young woman swooned. I thought she was going to fall over.

Fortunately, Nadiv’s face caught her as she was following and she planted a big, juicy, wet one in the middle of his cheek – I don’t know if she thought he was older than 4, or you figured a cheek that cute was worth going to Jail for one kiss. Either way, after their moment, as she was walking away, thankfully her English wasn’t very good as he dead panned after her – “Hey baby, what’s your sign?”

After brunch, as we were preparing to exit the Old City, I asked (begged?) Jen if she would wait in the scorching 100 degree heat, while I raced up 150 steps to the bookstore at the top of the hill facing the Kotel and bought a book I really wanted. My saint of a wife acquiesced.

(For the record, saint is an understatement. Technically to qualify for sainthood in the Catholic Church, I believe one of the prerequisites is two confirmed miracles. Jennifer is working on her tenth – 1. She married me; 2. A year later she was still married to me; 3. A year later she was still married to me; 4. . . . 5. . . . 6. . . . 7. . . . 8. . . . 9 A year later she was still married to me. )

The book is Adir Bamarom (Magnificent in Heaven/Heights/Sky), a commentary on the Idra Rabba I studied all this week in Melilah’s class written by Rabbi Moshe Chayim Luzzato. Remember, I told you I found an excerpt of the book on life (at mysefer.com) but I also called the Moriah Bookstore in the Old City. So I ran up, sweated, bought the book, ran down, sweated, and Jen was still there. Thank God for miracles small and great!

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting ready for Shabbat dinner – shopping, cleaning the house, setting the table, very little cooking.

That evening, Eduardo and his family came over for Shabbat dinner at our apartment. We also had the East family as well.

Dinner was wonderful – we really got to spend quiet time with the Gorinsteins. Sadly, Eduardo’s grandmother, Thelma, was feeling a bit worn out by the full days of touring, and returned to the hotel and wasn’t able to make it to Shabbat dinner.

(As Ohr Shalom grows, there are more and more families that we don’t know as well as we would like. We would love to get to know each and every family better. Please sit with us at shul, or we would like to invite you over to our house for a Shabbat afternoon, or call and invite us to a meal or a child’s play or soccer game or . . . . You could always plan to celebrate a Bat or Bar Mitzvah with us in Israel and we would love to invite you over to Shabbat dinner!)

Want to know what I consider a rich Shabbat evening?

After dinner with the Gorinsteins, I said goodnight to Jen and the kids and walked over to the home of Donniel and Adina Hartman for a special Shabbat dinner in honor of our group of Rabbis.

Yep, a Friday night with two Shabbat dinners. Sure it went very late. Sure Jennifer wasn’t able to join me for the second. But there were no cars involved. I was confident I could find my way home, and the wine was very good.

It was a great evening of bond, discussing, celebrating and eating with very special hosts and a wonderful group.

It is a joyous blessing to be able to welcome Shabbat in the Jerusalem, the City of Gold!

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