To My Son On His Bar Mitzvah

Dear Sam,

I just couldn’t resist writing a little something for you – something that for better or for worse, will live on the internet forever. My little baby boy, the one who made me a dad, is officially a teenager. And a brand new teenager who is becoming a Bar Mitzvah during a global pandemic and 4 days before the most important Presidential election of all time.

This isn’t how it’s supposed to be, but you know. We should be preparing for a big event, for out-of-town family to arrive, and for tons and tons of Mazel Tovs. You should be up on the bimah in shul with your friends and family rooting you on as you read from the Torah.

But instead we’ll be doing it all remotely. We’ll still get dressed up and we’ll still be as proud of you as ever, but it obviously won’t be the same.

You may not realize this now, but what a lucky kid you are to have 6 grandparents – 4 attending in person and 2 hunkered down in New York. One of the basic principles of Jewish life is the passing down of traditions from one generation to another and I’ve been trying to come up with some ways to do that under these trying circumstances. Originally, your mom and I were going to wrap you in your grandfather’s talit – the one he wore at his Bar Mitzvah in 1952. Sadly, and for reasons I cannot explain, your grandmother sent it to the dry cleaners before shipping it to Minnesota – so now you have a brand new one instead. The idea is the same though – and we hope you feel your grandparents’ love around you.

In your suit pockets will be two wristwatches. One belonged to my grandpa, Sam – for whom you were named after. And the second belonged to my other grandpa, Sol. For my 5th birthday, in 1980, my grandpa Sam – who was a bit of a goofball like us – came over with a big box.

I remember opening that box right by the front door, excited as ever to see what was inside. I pulled out a ton of newspaper but couldn’t find anything in the box. Before frustration set in, there it was, a smaller box on the bottom and inside the box, a watch.

My first watch was Snoopy playing tennis. A few months later – exactly 40 years ago on November 1st, my grandpa Sam died. On the day of his funeral, we got the terrible news that my other grandpa, Poppy Sol, had too died. Both of my grandpas died within 2 days of each other. Time is a strange thing. A very strange thing indeed.

The kiddish cup that you will be drinking from belonged to your great-great-grandfather, David. Unlike the talit, your grandmother cleaned it herself, so it’s safe and sound. We can estimate this kiddish cup being 150 years old.

Every parent has hopes and dreams for their kids and I am no exception. Naturally, I want you to always be healthy and happy. That goes without saying. But there’s more – and your Bar Mitzvah is a perfect occasion to tell you some other things that I hope for in your long life to come.

First, always be a mensch. It’s the most important thing.

Second, always remember who you are and where you come from. You can be a proud Jew in a million different ways. And don’t let anyone ever say you’re not doing it right or you’re not Jewish “enough.” You are allowed to eat as much bacon as you want and you’re allowed to root for the Patriots if – and only if – Julian Edelman scores a TD.

Third, everyone always says the Bar Mitzvah isn’t the end, but the beginning. It’s true. It’s when you’re old enough and mature enough to decide what kind of Jew you want to be.

Fourth, always look out for others. Immediately, you have two younger siblings. On a larger scale, do good for others. And again, you decide what that means and how to do it. But always do something.

Fifth, never eat a blueberry bagel. Your ancestors are not happy with this recent development in the food world. It’s a shonda.

Mazel tov to you, Sam. I’m so proud to be your dad.