After working with hundreds of students who have stepped forward to lead a congregation in prayer and to inspire them to live Jewish lives…it was my daughters’ turn. Yael and Leora each became a bat mitzvah just one month ago, and I couldn’t have felt prouder.
I knew that they were well prepared (I had a little insight into that). I knew that their Hebrew was up to par. But to actually witness your children before you leading services like this is to see your past and future simultaneously stand in front of you. I was proud of how they conducted our service. I was proud of how they had their own honest encounter with the Torah. I was grateful to God for giving them this opportunity and for enabling Deborah and me to learn from them.
So…all in all, it was a great day!
But truth be told, I was completely overwhelmed. I couldn’t pronounce their names when I was supposed to call them forward to light the candles on Friday eve. I just said “come here.” And a highlight of Shabbat morning’s tefilah/service was to have an aliyah to the Torah with my beloved next to me as we stood next to Leora.
Then it happened… we began to chant the blessing and…yes…“yours truly” messed it up!
There was a roar of laughter from the congregation that I have never heard before. I was so caught up in the moment that after 11 years of correcting parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and kids…I got fermisht myself!
What is the lesson to be learned from this? Is it that I should brush up on the blessings before I do it again? I don’t think so. I think my lesson is to take every moment I can as a father and husband to heart… and seek to be present. So present in the moment that I forget what I am supposed to do because the world stops so I can encounter it.
What is the lesson for my congregants? Do they make sure the “cheat sheet” for the blessings is up on the reading table before I endeavor to this again? No, probably not. Perhaps there is another lesson that is just as important as the first: that your rabbi is a dad who got fermisht on the bimah like lots of dads and moms. Maybe, as hard as he tries to be a good rabbi, he is just a guy with his fair share of flaws who loves that his girls love Torah and have grown into such mensches.
So on this Shabbat, being a dad trumped being a rabbi for a moment. I hope you didn’t mind. In fact, I know…it was actually a great part of the celebration.