This Shabbat will be special.
It is the first anniversary.
In some ways, it will be more special than the original event one year ago.
Last year on Shabbat Parshat Terumah my son Yoni was Bar Mitzvah. So this Shabbat is his first anniversary.
Many things are not the same as last year. There will be no special Kiddush in shul for him, family are not coming from all over the world to celebrate and there is no speech from the Rabbi to my son in shul. However, one thing will be exactly the same – he will lain the Sedra and Haftorah.
So why more special?
Over my many years at Stanmore, I never felt it was an achievement to have a boy lain on his Bar Mitzvah day. Everyone did it.Some lained the entire parsha, some lained just Maftir and Haftorah. Some lained well, some less so. The challenge as far as I was concerned was where would they be next week? Next year? Was their Bar Mitzvah the beginning of the end of their shul involvement or the start of something more? Therefore, it filled me with much more pride if a year later that boy would return to the youth service to once again lain his parsha – this time with no fanfare, no crying grandparents, no presents and no sense of compulsion. The Bar Mitzvah he HAD to do, this one was purely optional.
There is a fascinating debate amongst the sages of the Mishna as to what is the single most important verse in the Torah. Of course, every verse is in many ways equally important, as each and every one forms part of the Divinely revealed Torah. However, it seems that certain verses contain central ideas which inform all of Torah living. As such, our sages give some of them prominence as to what the totality of Torah is all about. So, which is the one verse that seems to express the essence of our personal and collective lives more than any other?
The discussion can be found in the following two sources: Our Sages quote in a Baraita in Torat Kohanim (Chapter 4, Midrash 12) “Love your fellow man as yourself” (Vayikra 19;18).
Rabbi Akiva said this is a great principle of the Torah.
Ben Azai said, “This is the book of the generations of Adam – on the day that G-d created man, He made him in His Image” (Bereishit 5;1) is a greater principle than that.
The Maharal of Prague (1525-1609) in his book Netivot Olam brings an addition to this Midrash, which was cited first by the author of Ein Ya’akov [Rabbi Ya’akov Ben Haviv (1460-1516) in his introduction to the book].
Ben Zoma says: We have found a more inclusive verse and it is “Shema Yisrael” (Devarim 6;4).
Ben Nanas says we have found a more inclusive verse than that and it is “Love your fellow man as yourself” (Vayikra 19;18).
Shimon Ben Pazi says we have found a more inclusive verse than that and it is “The first lamb you shall sacrifice in the morning and the second lamb you shall sacrifice in the evening.” (Shemot 29;39 and Bamidbar 28;4) [referring to the daily Tamid (perpetual) offering brought every morning and evening].
Rabbi Ploni stood up and said that the halacha is in accordance with Ben Pazi as it is written, “As all that I show you, the structure of the Mishkan and all its vessels: so shall you do.” (Shemot 25;9)
What is the message here? That Torah is to be seen just not in the major moments but also in the daily life of a Jew – which began as a nation focussed on the Mishkan.
Terumah introduces us to the Mishkan. As a nation, we have just had the once in a lifetime experience of Har Sinai – the thunder, the lightening, the incredible experience. However, the challenge of the Sinai experience is to take that one moment and make it last a lifetime. How is that achieved?
Enter the Mishkan.
Here we are introduced to the place where daily services will take place.
Where Judaism will be won and lost, not in the huge events and celebrations but in the daily and weekly life of the Jew.
It was not a surprise to me therefore, that over the years, the boys that came every year to lain their Bar Mitzvah parsha, were the ones who had got more involved with the shul on a daily or weekly basis and whose Judaism was a real part of their lives.
As Rav Doron Perez, the CEO of World Mizrachi writes ‘The awe of the Day of Judgment on Rosh Hashanah passes very quickly. The cleansing sense of atonement on Yom Kippur flits by in one brief day. The momentous occasion of the receiving of the Torah on Shavuot passes by in a flash. What remains are the seemingly ordinary routine days which follow. It is for this reason that our Sages emphasized that Judaism is about everyday living – every day we are judged, every day we seek Hashem’s atonement and we view every day as if it is the very day that the Torah was given.’
Mazeltov Yoni – even more than last year!