7 Years Later: Rejoicing Remembered
Today, the 22nd of Teves, is Aaron's birthday on the Jewish calendar. He was born exactly two decades ago on this date.
The age of twenty has significance in halachah. In Biblical law, twenty is the age at which one is considered a full adult, subject to the annual 1/2 shekel tax, obligated in military service and other communal responsibilities. Similarly, the Talmud views one younger than twenty as not yet a bar onshin - not held fully responsible for his deeds by the Almighty. At Aaron's funeral, our Rabbi mentioned this concept in his eulogy, asking us to take comfort in this assurance that Aaron was granted a lictigeh gan eden, a luminous paradise.
As Aaron's 20th birthday, this is also the 7th anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah. In fact, the dates occurred on the same weekdays then as they do this year. Thus, his bo bayom, his actual date of turning 13, was on a Friday, and we celebrated his bar mitzvah the next day, Shabbos Parshas Shemos. Some might remember the corresponding English date: none other than January 1st, 2000! So as the rest of the world was greeting - or dreading - the infamous Y2K-day, our family and friends were rejoicing at - as I quipped at the time - the Bar Mitzvah of the year, century, and milennium.
As I did last year, I plan to share more reminisces about Aaron's life, wit, and accomplishments on his secular birthday, January 22. But to honor today, I am posting - complete and unedited - the d'var torah that Aaron delivered at his Bar Mitzvah seudah [feast], seven years ago this weekend. It's an opportunity for me to relive a very special day, with the odd mixture of grief and joy that I have become so accustomed to these past twenty months (there's that number 20 again).
And it's a chance for all of you to learn a bit more about the talented and singular young man that Aaron was.
Yom Huledeh Samayach, Aharon.
Aaron’s Bar Mitzvah Speech
I’d like to welcome all of you who have come to share in my simcha. To make every simcha truly complete, some words of Torah should be said. B’rshus Avi Mori, v’harabannan, I wish to share this D’var Torah with you.
We’re all familiar with the main story of my parsha of Shmos – the story of Moshe’s early life and his being chosen by Hashem to be the leader of the B’nai Yisroel. However, in the parsha there is one incident which is very hard to understand. Right after Moshe is commanded to return to Mitzrayim, it says: "[Hebrew] When he stopped at an inn on the way, suddenly the angel of Hashem came and wanted to kill Moshe." Then Zipporah, Moshe’s wife, gave their son a bris and the angel left him alone. It seems amazing that Hashem would appoint Moshe to save his people, and then almost immediately threaten to kill him.
Most meforshim agree that Moshe’s punishment was due to somehow delaying the bris of his son. There is a difference as to which of his two sons it was. Rashi and other meforshim bring down the Gemara Bavli in Meseches Nedarim, Daf Lamed Bais, which quotes two views of what Moshe’s sin was. According to the tanna kamma, it was because Moshe was delaying the bris of his newborn son Eliezer, and the mitzvah of Bris Milah was more important even than Moshe’s mission. The second view, Rabbi Yossi, was that Moshe wasn’t even delaying it significantly, he was just delaying it until he was done with preparations for the inn.
There is another view, brought down in the Talmud Yerushalmi and the Targum Yonasan, that this wasn’t his newborn son but his older son Gershom. According to this Midrash, Moshe had promised his father-in-law Yisro to give Yisro control over his first son’s bris. The Yalkut explains that Yisro wanted to have Gershom’s bris according to the custom of his people, the Midianites, who were descended from Avraham and who adopted the customs of Avraham’s first son, Yishmael. Most likely, Yisro wanted to delay Gershom’s bris until the age of 13, as the custom of the Yishmaelim remains to this day. Baruch Hashem, we don’t follow that Bar Mitzvah custom!
Even though the Bris of one small child may seem insignificant to us compared to Moshe’s mission to save the Jewish nation from slavery, in reality, every mitzvah is important, no matter how big or small. Moshe was not allowed to push aside his son’s Bris even for the good of a seemingly more important task. Moshe was not even allowed to make it at a different time, according to the minhag of a different nation, because that minhag is not the way Hashem wanted it to be done. Every mitzvah and every detail is important.
Another prime example of the fact that every little thing is important is also in my parsha. Hashem chooses to appear to Moshe in a small burning bush. Why didn’t Hashem appear in a more impressive object? Hashem wanted to teach Moshe the same lesson, that every little thing is valuable. The fact that Hashem showed Moshe this lesson twice shows us how truly important a lesson it is.
Every little part of me also counts and all the things that many people have done for me have helped to make me what I am today. First I would like to thank Hashem for giving me good health and for giving me the chance to become Bar-Mitzvah.
My parents definitely played a major role in making me what I am. If not for their encouragement, I probably would still be crying about how my mind went blank when it was time for me to lain, and I definitely would not be standing up here giving this speech. I’d like to thank them for being there all the time I needed them the most.
I’d also like to thank my grand parents Bubbie Joyce, Savta, and Zaideh Azriel who set wonderful examples for me, and who are always there when I need someone to talk to about something I can’t talk to my parents about. When I talk about my grandparents, I also think about my Zaideh Norman Alav Hashalom, who influenced my life in a wonderful way. Knowing him made me a better person.
I’d like to thank my rebbeim for teaching me how to act and how to learn. I want to thank all of my friends for being there and for staying good friends, even through bad times.
I also would like to thank all the little body guards who saved me from being bombarded with candy this morning. Baruch Hashem, not a single piece hit me. (You know, I noticed quite a few of my classmates among the bodyguards.)
Finally, I’d like to thank you all for coming to share in our simcha. Each one of you helps make the simcha greater. Thanks again, and shavua tov!