Somewhere Between An Epiphany and Been There, Done That

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.


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bec
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 17:02:28

    what a great occasion to say shehechiyanu! mazal tov!!!!

  2. Ezzie
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 18:50:16

    😀 That’s incredibly nice. One need not have three tissues to imagine an experience… 🙂

  3. Erica
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 19:47:20

    A wonderful story…Mazel tov. Sometimes experiences in life need to define themselves on their own terms. As was the case of your son laying tefillin for the first time. Normal and special…as it should be.

  4. Jack
    Jan 20, 2008 @ 20:50:57

    Mazal Tov.

  5. zahava
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 08:19:32

    “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.”

    As someone who remembers your Mom, z”l, with the fondest of memories, I have to say that this description brought a smile to my face! She would be very annoyed if sad thoughts had marred the day, and would be busting with joy at how “normal” the reality of living as Torah-observant Jews in our homeland has become.

    Mazal tov on your son laying tefillin! May you enjoy many, many more “normal” smachot together! 🙂

  6. Rafi G
    Jan 21, 2008 @ 09:33:29

    Mazel tov!

  7. westbankmama
    Jan 22, 2008 @ 09:20:52

    bec – you know, I hadn’t thought of that. The blessing of shehecheyanu really sums it up!

    ezzie – nice to see you Ezzie! I see that work hasn’t completely taken you away from blogs…

    erica – “laying tefillin” – I knew there was a better phrase, but I couldn’t think of it…

    Jack – thank you

    zahava – thanks for your good wishes, and for a lovely memory. I had forgotten that my mother was not just my mother, but a “mama bear” to a lot of NCSYers in her time.

    Rafi G – thank you.

  8. faith/emuna
    Jan 24, 2008 @ 13:51:13

    actualy if you got to the kotel in an hour that is something special! took me 1.5 hrs just to get to givat shaul last wk.
    a big mazal tov! your post reminded me that i had the zchut to break in your new pregnancy clothes for you when you were pregnant with the bar mitzva boy since you coulndt lehadesh them since you were in avelut. time flies sun rise sun set etc. some of us just arent 3 tissue-types and its great to be able to see the miracles in every day of our return to israel existence. mazal tov

  9. treppenwitz
    Jan 24, 2008 @ 15:31:36

    Mazal Tov on this woderful event. And yes, guilty as charged… I would have hit the readers right in the tissue box. 🙂

  10. westbankmama
    Jan 24, 2008 @ 15:33:02

    Thanks Faith. I remember when you “broke in” my pregnancy clothes too, and I remember the funny situation when your hubby was puzzled about it….

  11. westbankmama
    Jan 24, 2008 @ 15:37:45

    treppenwitz – I hope you didn’t think I was casting aspersions on your style. I happen to think it is wonderful how sentimental you are sometimes about your kids. For this post I just tried to write it as it really was.

  12. soccer dad
    Jan 24, 2008 @ 17:18:39

    Mazel Tov.
    I remember last year davening with my nearly Bar Mitzvah son and realizing it was the last time I’d be davening with him that he wouldn’t be part of a minyan. Since he’s in Yeshiva I don’t see him much this year. But I get to daven at the “youth minyan” this Shabbos to hear him read his parsha again.

  13. Gila
    Jan 27, 2008 @ 19:25:30

    Mazal tov!

  14. westbankmama
    Jan 28, 2008 @ 15:46:06

    thank you Soccerdad – how does your “freedom” feel?

    Gila – thanks to you too

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