Stephen, you look so happy today. I see your family here, and they are enjoying this moment with you. Your friends and the community are here to share this meaningful occasion with you, and we all rejoice with you. So Mazal Tov and welcome, everyone.
Stephen, you read from the Book of Isaiah today, a chapter that expresses the eternal concepts of love and kindness. Isaiah was a great man; he was a leader and prophet at around the time of the First Temple in Jerusalem. Isaiah tried hard to make everyone very happy, to bring hope to the people and to show that he cared for his society. It is quite appropriate that you are the one to read this portion because you embody these traits of Isaiah-- you have a good heart, you are always smiling, you care for others and you wish for other people to find joy. You have the privilege of belonging to a wonderful, loving family. Your parents, both physicians, are merited to be admirable role models who serve humanity willingly as they heal and care compassionately for others with their hands, knowledge, and hearts. Furthermore, you are blessed to have a good and sweet sister, Natalie. Additionally, your grandparents on both sides have blessed you with a strong heritage.
As you have reached this long awaited Bar mitzvah milestone today, you have shown that you really try hard to make things happen. I have had the privilege of working with you and spending time with you in preparation for this day. Firsthand, I saw your sacrifices, as you skipped out on baseball games and other fun teenage endeavors. Yet, you persevered and demonstrated strength in your convictions. You know that your Hebrew name is Shmuel Zalman, named after your great-grandfather, Sam Riegel. He was well-known as a religious man who loved to perform good deeds. He lived a charitable life, and loved to see other people happy.
Our congregation and guest are delighted to celebrate with your parents and grandparents. Now we are looking forward to seeing you grow up and positively influence the world around you. Stephen, throughout your life, please remember that your synagogue is your second home. We all love you and want you to feel comfortable to come here and participate in all our services, activities educational programs and celebrations. Even today, inscribed in the United Nations building in New York City, is a timeless quote from the prophet Isaiah--the inscription reads: "Nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall men learn war anymore." This is the message of peace, loving kindness and hope that Isaiah preaches to us. This is an important theme that we pray for during this upcoming festival of Passover-- that it will be a time to celebrate true peace and lasting freedom.
At this time, I would like to give you a special blessing, first given thousand of years ago at the time of the Temple by the priests, "May G-d bless you and safeguard you, may G-d illuminate his countenance to you, may G-d turn his countenance to you and establish peace for you." Mazal Tov and Shabbat Shalom to all.