Rabbi’s Review – April 2017

Now He Is A Man

Rabbi Charles K. Briskin


Over the course of my career I have helped several hundred young men and women prepare to become b’nai mitzvah. But all of these years of experience could not prepare me for our family’s own bar mitzvah journey.

Later this month, we will kvell as we celebrate Ezra becoming bar mitzvah. When he ascends the bimah, he will add his link to the long chain of tradition from Sinai to the sanctuary that connects him to all who have demonstrated confidence, competence, and insight from that sacred spot.

When we moved to San Pedro in 2005, Ezra was just 15 months old. All of us have watched him, and many of the children of our congregation, grow up before our eyes. We are amazed that so much time has passed and this little boy is now a young man.

Temple Beth El is Ezra’s second home. He didn’t choose it, but he’s embraced it. I feel fortunate that he feels so comfortable here— sometimes too comfortable. But isn’t that what we want for our children? Don’t we want them to feel like TBE is an extension of their home, not just a place that they go to for another one of their many extra-curricular activities?

Often times I have to remind Ezra (and Avi, too) why TBE is a priority for our family, and it’s not just because I am the rabbi. Truth be told, we force them to go now and then, much to their chagrin. However, as I have told them and others too, they will be competitive athletes for the next few years, but they will be Jews for life. As important as it is to develop skills on the field, they also need to develop skills and Jewish competency in the Torah School classroom, in the sanctuary on Friday nights and beyond. These skills will help them to be stewards of our tradition and exemplars of our values for their generation and beyond.

I hope and pray that Karen and I are providing our children with affirming and meaningful Jewish experiences. We want them to love being Jewish and be able to articulate what that means. We want them to look forward to participating in Jewish life at TBE and beyond. I am grateful that TBE has played an important role over these past twelve years in nurturing Ezra’s Jewish soul and spirit, as well as the souls and spirts of his classmates and so many of the children of our congregation.

When Ezra becomes bar mitzvah later this month, he will pledge to continue with his Torah School studies. I hope that his connection to Temple Beth El, along with Camp Newman and celebrations of our festivals and holidays, will motivate Ezra to learn and live his Judaism affirmatively and enthusiastically.

Check back in twenty years and we’ll see how we’ve done.