The 20th Anniversary Of My Bar Mitzvah

I hope you all have been enjoying your summer. I am back online after some fun adventures!

Tallit

A picture of my custom Bar Mitzvah tallit

As many of you know, I did not become a Bar Mitzvah at 13. I did so when I was 26, 13 years after my 13th birthday. And the portion that I read 20 years ago, Eikev, from the Book of Deuteronomy, is what we read this weekend.

As a gift for my Bar Mitzvah, my friend, Mara Blumenthal, now a well-known costume designer based in Chicago, made a beautiful tallit for me. On the tallit, in place of the traditional blessing that is usually found on what we call the atarah, the strip of fabric at the top of the tallit, Mara placed my favorite blessing from Eikev: “Your eyes have seen all the great work that God has done.” (Deuteronomy 11:7)

While our tradition teaches us that this verse was spoken by Moses to the Israelites centuries ago, the Torah shares this verse with us yearly for a reason. It is a reminder that, despite the challenging, disturbing and ugly things that we have seen and will, unfortunately, continue to see, we do see great, awesome, beautiful things. And, by the way, when we talk about seeing things with our eyes, Judaism is really referring to perceiving things with our soul. Even those who are visually impaired can see the great things that the Torah speaks about.

“Your eyes have seen all the great work that God has done” is our tradition’s quiet plea to look into a loved one’s eyes at least once a day, to turn away from your phone and gaze at the clouds or stars just for a minute, to put down the newspaper and read an incredible poem or admire a work of art. Still today, our eyes continue to see great things. We are often too busy to appreciate things. They are easily overshadowed by the sensationalism promoted online and in the news. And so, our Torah reminds us of all the great things our eyes continue to see.

May you take the time to appreciate all the great things that you can see this Shabbat.