Just A Thought: For my newborn son

"Try tp understand how lucky you are to be born in Israel."

New born baby (photo credit: ILLUSTRATIVE: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
New born baby
‘Torah tziva lanu Moshe, morasha kehilat Ya’acov,” “The Torah commanded to us by Moses is the inheritance of the entire congregation of Jacob” (Deuteronomy 33:4). I want these to be the very first words you hear, as they were for your brothers and sisters before you.
You are loved more than you can possibly fathom right now, and you will never understand this love, till you are able to enter your own son into the same covenant of blood, privilege and obligation.
You are now the 10th member of my family born in Jerusalem, and yesterday you joined a greater family, that of klal Yisrael, sovereign in their own land, secure in their own borders, masters of their own fate. “Happy are the eyes that behold all this.”
Let me take this opportunity to share some ideas that Mommy and I hope you will take with you wherever you go: Be a mensch. All men are created in the Divine image. This is something that I fear even great rabbis sometimes forget.
Being a person of integrity and principle should be your loftiest goal. Everything else is secondary at best. Remember that we are human beings, even before we are Jews. It is through the prism of Torah that we understand our humanity.
Now, I don’t expect you to be a tzaddik; I know how far I am myself from reaching that goal. But I do expect you to never stop trying. “It is not upon you to complete the job, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
The best advice I have to being a mensch is to be stringent.
But the trick is to be stringent about the right things, like loving your fellow man, avoiding gossip, upholding your friend’s honor and safeguarding your friend’s money.
Second to being a mensch is to embrace your legacy as a Jew. Being a Jew today is a balancing act. You must learn how to be a part of humanity and apart from it. You are in a covenantal relationship with God. This does not make you better than your fellow man, but it does make you different.
By the shedding of your blood yesterday, you have become the next link in a chain that goes back 4,000 years to Abraham. You are the son of kings and queens, scholars and saints, men of letters and women of valor. The blood of prophets and martyrs flows through your veins.
This fact privileges you not to greater worth but to greater potential. You must use this opportunity to see God in the world and how He is manifest in your life as an individual and in the story of our people. The tale of the Jewish people is the saga of God’s relationship with man. Get to know that story, and figure out what role you will play to bring that story to its next chapter. Your most important job in life is to have Jewish grandchildren. Everything I do for you is to that end.
Try to understand how lucky you are to be born in Israel. The early Zionists used to sing: “A Jewish kingdom, gentlemen! Can you believe it? A kingdom of kings alone!” Israel is where we make Torah real on a national scale. No longer is God confined to our kitchens and synagogues; He is to be found in the life of our nation as a whole. We must ask about the kashrut of our chickens and of our military policies as well. Are our social welfare policies kosher? As David Ben-Gurion said: “Israel makes everything that is human, Jewish; and everything that is Jewish, human.”
Being born here, you will never truly understand how lucky you are. For you, the galut, Jewish exile, will be but a theory, a fun place to visit – never a home. I envy that. Therefore it will be our special responsibility as parents to make you aware of the wonder of shivat Tziyon, the return to Zion, and help you live in a state of “radical amazement” at the marvel of it all.
Finally, treat your mother like a queen. For it is she who makes you a prince. Your mother is my best friend and best critic. She is my partner and confidante. She is eshet briti and an ezer kenegdi. I fell in love with your mother as soon as I saw her. She is the most beautiful woman I have ever met. I want you to know that I would be nothing without her.
It is our hope and blessing to you that you grow to Torah, huppa and good deeds.
I will end with the words of Benjamin Franklin that your great-grandpa Jack gave to my father, Norman, who in turn gave them to me, so that I should now give them to you: “Dost thou love Life? Then do not squander time, For that is the stuff life is made of.”
The writer holds a doctorate in Jewish philosophy and teaches in post-high-school yeshivot and midrashot in Jerusalem.