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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Bar Mitzvah Speech

Soon I will be making a Bar Mitzva, IY"H. And of course, there has to be a speech. Here's a speech I would like to be made in the presence of my bochur and his friends, preferably by the menahel.

Dear Feivish ben Leapa,

This is a day and an occasion which you will undoubtedly remember for the rest of your life. We have spent nine years educating you, but please realize that watching your father and mother is a big part of your education, and by far the largest part of your education is the course you will set for yourself through your thoughts and your interests, and the thoughts and interests you are disciplined enough to block out.

Hashem went to a lot of trouble to create a big, complex, and breathtakingly beautiful world. He certainly did not intend for the beauty and unexplored order of his universe to be ignored. He did not mean for us to create a tiny corner within his big world, and then shut out so much that He Himself has no space there.

At the same time, He created nisyonos, and we need to work all through our years on strenghtening the discipline to withstand these nisyonos. Yes, these nisyonos include the 'street' that the mashgichim have warned you about. But, as the Sfas Emes says, knowledge is also Torah. The nisyonos in our generation do not include science, the mountains, and the oceans. There are and always have been talmidei chachamim who know science, and even news, and were more knowledgeable in Torah than those who were and are secular ignoramuses.

Just as you should look beneath the surface of the world around you, you should look beneath the appearances of those you meet. You already know that not every shtreimel covers a tzadik. Know as well that not every kipa sruga covers a shaigetz or an am haaretz. And remember that a frum appearance cannot ever correct a deficient pnimios.

A balanced human being needs recreation. If you don't develop healthy forms of recreation, your recreation will be spiritually and physically unhealthy. Gossip and shushk'd conversation about other people is unhealthy recreation. Mountain climbing, basketball, and chess are healthy. Rav S. R. Hirsch hiked through the Alps in his last years. When asked why he spent time doing this, he answered "Soon I will be called upstairs. For most of what I did throughout my life I can answer that I did the best I could. But what if the Eibishter asks me 'Shamshon - did you see my Alps? I have to be able to answer that question as well!"

Sooner than you think you will make a choice between learning long term and going out and working. No matter what anyone tells you, an honest dollar is a kovod, even compared to a dishonest dollar that keeps someone learning. We will never in this world know why work has to take up so much of our lives. But we do know that the Torah respects an honest garbage collector more than a dishonest Rov. This misunderstanding of the Torah's values is itself an example of the mistakes people make from lack of learning. Of course, we hope that you can learn for many years, and we would be gratified if you become a Rav or Rosh Yeshiva, Feivish. But remember as well, that the Chofetz Chaim was not a Rov for most of his life, and never intended to be, and even Rav Moshe Feinstein was prepared to take a job if necessary upon his arrival in America.

Feivish, we hope that you will carry these words with you, and no matter where life carries you, we hope to meet you in the future as a 'Shomer Pirkei Avos' and a knowledgeable Jew as well as a knowledgeable and menschlich human being being mekadesh sheim shomayim.

I also bless you with being able to teach us a thing or two when we meet you in years to come.

Thank you all for your time.


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