Thursday, March 1, 2012

Speech Given at Ephraim Dovid Weiland’s Bar Mitzvah

I gave this speech on the 30th of Shevat, 5772 (2-22-2012) at the Bar Mitzvah of my nephew, Ephraim Dovid Weiland (my brother Mendy’s son). Please note, in this speech I used a number of Hebrew/Yiddish words which some may not be familiar with. Below is a glossary of possibly unfamiliar words:

Chasheva Rabbanim –esteemed Rabbis.  Simcha – joyous occasion. Dvar Torah – Torah thought. Parsha – portion of the Bible. Hashem – God. Moshe Rabbenu – Moses, our teacher. Mishkan – Tabernacle. Rashi – a classic commentator. Alav hashalom – equivalent of “may they rest in peace.” Gemarah – Talmud. Kabbalas Hatorah – receiving the Torah. Minyan – prayer with a quorum. Daf Yomi – daily study of the Talmud according to a specific schedule. Chesed – acts of loving kindness. Yibadel lechaim – term used when mentioning someone living right after having mentioned someone who has passed on; it is a prayer that the person lives a long life. Savta – grandmother. Baruch Hashem – thank God. Middos – good character traits. Davening – prayer.

Chasheva Rabbanim, family members, and honored guests, it is a pleasure to celebrate this simcha with you.

Many moons ago, some of you might recall that I spoke at Mendy’s Bar Mitzvah. I don’t remember what I said, so it’s possible that I might repeat myself, but doubtful. I guess I did an OK job, because Mendy asked me to speak today. Or, perhaps he’s hopeful that I’ve improved since then.

And now for the Dvar Torah. This week’s parsha, Parshas Terumah, begins with Hashem saying to Moshe Rabbenu (Exodus 25:2), “Veyikchu li Terumah.” “Let them take for me the Terumah,” the contributions for the Mishkan. Rashi explains that “take for me” means to give the donation for Hashem’s sake. Not to give because it looks good, or even because it feels good. Rather, to give because that is the will of Hashem.

Ephraim Dovid, perhaps the most important decision you will make in your life is hinted at, at the very beginning of your Bar Mitzvah parsha. You will decide whether to live for yourself, to do what looks and feels good, or, to live for Hashem. As you go through life, will you ask yourself, “What’s in it for me?  What benefits me most?” or, will you ask, “How does Hashem want me to act?”

Your great, great aunt Reba, alav hashalom, would advise me, “Yaakov, become ‘an epes,’ become a somebody.” When a person lives for themselves, he is a nobody; a manikin going through the motions of life. But when a person lives for Hashem, he is everything. The Gemarah teaches (Sanhedrin 37a) that a person is obligated to say, “For me the world was created.” When you live for Hashem, you’re a ganze velt! You’re an entire world.

Hashem said to the Jewish people (Jeremiah 2:2), “Lechtaiych acharie bamidbar, b’eretz lo z’ruah.” He praised them that after leaving Egypt they were willing to follow Him into a desert, a barren land. We need to be willing to follow Hashem, no matter where He leads us. When we do, like our ancestors, we will merit living our lives accompanied by the Shechinah, the Divine Presence. Like our ancestors, we will merit our very own kabbalas Hatorah, Hashem will reveal to us the beauty and the sweetness of His Torah.

Your grandfather, whom you are named after, my father, alav hashalom , did his utmost to fulfill Hashem’s will. Even when he was sick, as best he could, he would go to minyan, study the Daf Yomi and use his free time to raise money for poor students in Israel. He loved to help people in any way he could. He lived for Hashem and to do chesed for Hashem’s children.

Yibadel lechaim, your savta, my dear mother, chesed is a driving force in her life. No matter the inconvenience, she gives of herself. But not only that, she gives with a smile, with an open heart.

Your other grandparents, Rabbi and Rebbetzin Zweiback, are also wonderful examples of living for Hashem, doing chesed and spreading Torah.  

I don’t need to elaborate about your parents, as you see daily how dedicated they are to your family and to the community, selflessly giving of their time and attention. They live their lives to fulfill the will of Hashem.

Ephraim Dovid, Baruch Hashem you are already following in their footsteps, with your wonderful middos, davening and learning. May you continue on this path, and may you always remember Moshe Rabbenu’s call (Deuteronomy 30:19), “Uvacharta bachaim!” “Choose life!” And when you choose Hashem and following His Torah, you choose life.

Mazel tov!

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