This week my second son put on tefillin (phylacteries) for the first time. Our minhag (custom) is for the boy to put them on starting one month before his Bar Mitzvah, when it becomes obligatory.
In order to celebrate this occasion, we went to daven shacharit (pray the morning service) at the Kotel (Western Wall), and afterwards we went to have breakfast in a restaurant.
These are the bare facts. I’ve been debating with myself about how to write the complete description about this morning on the blog.
On the one hand, I could make an effort and put together a “three tissue post”, a la Treppenwitz. I would start with my personal struggles through years of infertility just to bring this boy into the world at all. I could then describe the crisp but cold Jerusalem morning, the sights and sounds of the Old City and the Western Wall, and the deep feeling of ancient traditions as I peeked through the mechitza between my morning prayers. For good measure I could mention that it was only a week after my mothers yahrzeit (anniversary of her death), which added a bittersweet tinge to the occasion. I could also describe how all of these things came together for me in a huge wave of emotions.
I could describe the morning that way – but I won’t. Because it would be a lie.
I could completely ignore it, or I could write a quick, “been there, done that” post, which would be the truth since we did the same thing for his older brother a number of years ago.
But that would be a lie too.
So how to portray the truth?
The truth is that I feel very lucky that this day was both “normal” and special. Normal in that we did not have to take heroic measures to get to the Kotel -we just got in the car and drove for about an hour. The most difficult part was deciding where to park – which we did in the paylot at the Karta and we walked the rest of the way.
Normal in that although it took quite a bit of effort to get him here, my son is (bli ayin hara) healthy and my infertility problems are just a sad memory from a long time ago.
Normal in that although I do wish my mother was here to share this, she passed away before he was born, and she would be very annoyed at me for letting sad thoughts about her mar the day.
One moment was elevated to being special, though. My son, after putting his tefillin away and making his way towards me, stuck out his arm for me to see.
“Look Ima” he said, showing me the slight depressions on his arm from where the straps had been. I rubbed my hand over them, and we shared a smile.
Pretty soon those marks on his arm will become “normal” for him – and thank G-d for that! This day, though, it was special – and we both had a chance to feel it.