First of all, I just want to say how glad I am that you are here to share in my Bar Mitzvah. Many of you have traveled and made special arrangements to help me celebrate and that is part of what Judaism means to me. Judaism means community, family, friends -- …and food.
What is a bar mitzvah all about? It is a special celebration that only happens once a lifetime. On this day of Bar Mitzvah, which is marked by the passing of the thirteenth year, the child becomes an adult. The Bar Mitzvah celebration demonstrates the capability of a child to be a responsible adult. Today on my bar mitzvah I am demonstrating my commitment to being a responsible Jewish adult.
In this week’s Haftorah we meet the prophet Jeremiah, a very powerful and sharp person who loved his people so much. He tried with all his strength and his devotion to help and save the Jewish nation. He is a great role model for me because he gave 100% of his energy to Jerusalem and to preserve history. I hope that I too, can muster the courage to dedicate my spiritual powers and teachings from my ancestors on a path of Jewish heroism.
Everywhere I turn I see Biblical historic characters in the Torah, and individuals throughout civilization and modern society who shine as Jewish stars--people who have so much to teach us even today.
Our sages tell us that a person’s name defines their spiritual essence and destiny-I hope I can follow the example of a great leader like the Biblical Joseph. My name is Joseph-- my namesake in the Torah, Joseph had many ups and downs in his life, yet he always survived and triumphed over his circumstances with G-d’s favor. Joseph got himself out of the "pit", in and out of jail, and ended up as a leader and chief advisor to the pharaoh. He beat all the odds of survival and saved both Jew and non-Jewish people from starvation and gave them life. He also had unconditional love for his family, he was always grateful to his parents, as am I-- for the gift of life.
Not only do I have great support from my parents, but I also have a great heritage and example through my family. A relative of my family’s is the Vilna Gaon, a great Jewish luminary, really a Torah giant whose teaching and behavior are legendary and have influenced countless of generations. My great grandfather founded one of the largest synagogues in Washington DC, Adat Israel Congregation. My father is on the board of the synagogue and also of the Jewish school. My mother is on the board of the conservative synagogue.
I feel that I live in a great community in a great world with so much opportunity as an American Jew. I try to be positive and find the good in society, in my life and in my family that will build me into a healthy, happy contributing member of society and my tribe. I want to dedicate my self to become fluent in Hebrew and to continually pray for the Jews in Israel.
I see so many friends here, joining me on this special day. It’s a powerful feeling to know that we boys who all now are here at the same time, we went through brises together and now our bar mitzvah’s. Hopefully we’ll even dance at each other’s weddings and maybe go into business together, it even feels like we’re a gang or fraternity.
And perhaps our children one day will also be close friends, because we are a strong community. When we celebrate these traditions, they are the glue that help us young Jewish men stay together and keep the faith alive.
Rabbi, as I promised I’ll come here to further my Jewish education with you and participate in KI services.
It was and still is my great honor and pleasure to be part of congregation Kneseth Israel and I believe that together with our new Rabbi our blessed community will continue to flourish and grow.
Some of you might wonder why I have this Bar Mitzvah portion. You could say it runs in the family, my dad had this portion; both his brothers had this portion but it all started with my grandfather, Morton Wilner, of blessed memory, who had it because it was closest to his birthday.
Others of you might wonder why I am wearing a bow tie. The summer before my other grandfather, Daniel Harrison Sr., died he taught me how to tie a bowtie, and that’s the only kind of tie I have worn since.
I would like to thank every body who helped me get to this point especially my parents who, even if I didn’t want to, made me practice my bar mitzvah and always reassured me that I was great if I thought I sounded bad or was worried. They have always been there for me and I hope will continue to do so. I would also like to thank Sally Grobani for teaching me almost everything I needed for today. Thank you Granny for having me over for delicious Shabbat dinner on so many Fridays. Thank you Grandma Snickel for indulging my antiquing spirit. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of my teachers from the Aleph Bet Jewish Day School for giving me the best elementary school experience I could ever have. Thank you to Kneseth Israel for opening your doors to me so I could have my bar mitzvah here. And last but not least I’d like to thank Rabbi Weisblum for helping me with everything and preparing me for my bar mitzvah.
Thank you everyone. I wish to see you on many happy occasions. G-d bless you all. Shabbat Shalom.