A second bar mitzvah

Life lessons passed down from generation to generation.

A second bar mitzvah is a rare and special simcha (photo credit: Courtesy)
A second bar mitzvah is a rare and special simcha
(photo credit: Courtesy)

I recently had the privilege of flying back to the country I’ve called home for most of my life, South Africa, to celebrate a very special simcha. It has been almost two years since my husband and I made aliyah with our two young children. In that time, we’ve been lucky to return to South Africa for various family celebrations, including our nephew’s bar mitzvah and our niece’s bat mitzvah. Each event saw us celebrating with family and friends we’ve known for years. We talk about these celebrations often – they are memories we will have forever. But this time, we marked a unique milestone – that of my father’s second bar mitzvah, which fell on his 83rd birthday.
One obviously doesn’t often hear about second bar mitzvah celebrations. I’ve spoken to many people who haven’t heard of it before. Here’s the basic concept: The life span was – in the past – expected to be 70 years. (The psalmist says the days of our years are three score and ten. – Psalm 90, Verse 10) That is one generation. So, marking one’s 70th birthday could be considered to be a new start. Add another 13 years (that’s the age of a teenage bar mitzvah boy) – and a man’s 83rd birthday is seen as the second time he gets to “become a man” again. And what a fabulous reason for family and friends to celebrate together – honoring a wise family man of unparalleled integrity, whose reputation as a lawyer, community adviser and personal confidant has been regularly echoed by community leaders, community members, colleagues, friends, business people and acquaintances over the years.
There is a lot to celebrate when one is a happily married husband of nearly 50 years, a father of three and a grandfather of seven. One can imagine there aren’t many 83-year-olds who still work every day. Despite this fascinating dedication and work ethic, there has never been any doubt that his priority has always been that of his family. And his children, and now grandchildren, are blessed enough to have received the most sound, measured and fair advice over the years. All this, of course, tinged with a healthy dose of humor.
Out of the mouths of babesA few years ago, our then eight-year-old daughter and nine-year-old son were doing homework at the same table. She asked her older brother a question about the work. He said he didn’t know the answer, but suggested the following, “First you should ask mom and dad. If they don’t know the answer, then ask your teacher. If the teacher doesn’t know the answer, then ask the rabbi. If the rabbi doesn’t know the answer then you can ask grandpa, because he will definitely know.” Our daughter thought about this and then asked, “How do you know for sure that grandpa will know the answer?” The reply, “Grandpa knows the answers to everything.”It seems that the wisdom and humor are being passed down to the younger generation!
The best adviceIt seems only appropriate then to share just a little of the advice that we have been blessed to receive from this exceptionally private, modest and highly respected man we get to call dad. He has the insight and sensitivity to tell by the sound of his children or grandchildren’s voices on the phone how their day has been. At the end of any chat, he reminds us all of these two simple and profound words: “Be happy!”
Something else we can all celebrate together.
The writer is a news anchor at i24NEWS.