I came to the kotel prepared for Yoni’s Hanachat Tefillin. By that I mean that I had my camera, some ziploc bags full of cereal for those who didn’t realize the value in waiting until Waffle Bar breakfast, a marker and some paper. I figured the spirituality would happen on the other side of the mechitza. I was there to take pictures.
But a couple of moments surprised me. When I was 16 we lived in Israel for the year and I remember that Yom Yerushalayim as being very significant. I remember feeling that it mattered. Probably not for the right reasons. I mean I’m sure the reunification of the ancient city was somewhere in the back recesses of my mind but it was more because I was surrounded by the people who mattered most to me. You can’t underplay the importance of your friends when you’re 16. And we were up all night, at the kotel, with everyone.
And I was back, a mere 24 years later, surrounded by the new people who matter most to me in the world. 7:45 is pretty obnoxiously early to ask people to get up and meet us at the kotel but they were all there. Yoni’s grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, his madrich from camp. It wasn’t loud. We didn’t throw candies. It just was simple and perfect. Dov wrote a letter to Hashem and we put it in the kotel.
Yoni has waited a long time to put on tefillin. It was a significant moment for him. He will wear David’s father’s tefillin so that is significant to us. I didn’t expect to react so strongly as he struggled to put them on, deep in concentration. I didn’t expect to react as he did birkat kohanim for our small minyan but as random women made their way over to our minyan in time for birkat kohanim I realized that he blesses people. Living in Israel, every day Yoni will bless people.
Later that night, long after we’d left the kotel, eaten our waffles and said goodbye to all the early risers, we went to school for a Bar Mitzvah program with Yoni. Yoni introduced me to one of the Rabbis at his school. “Yoni’s mother,” the Rav said,”that’s a true zchut.” And it is. Even on days when it may not be the first thing that comes to mind. Somewhere I always know it really is.
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