An orphan's bar mitzvah

Rabbi Zushe Greenberg 
Special to the CJN (11/22/2013)

One night, Rabbi Silverman of Marietta, Ga., received a call to come speak to a young woman in the last hours of her life. The woman turned to the rabbi and told him, "My husband is not Jewish, but I have a 10-year-old son, and I beg of you, please promise me that you will make him a bar mitzvah." The promise was made. The next day the woman passed away.

Months later, the rabbi contacted the father to follow up on his promise but was told that the bar mitzvah was called off. "I remarried a Christian woman and my son is being raised by us and doesn't need to be confused with his mother's religion," the father said. The rabbi was at loss for words and the
conversation ended.

Rabbi Silverman couldn't sleep all night, and the next day he called the father with these words: "One day, your son will grow up and ask you about his mother's last hours. When he finds out about my promise to her, he will knock on my door and demand to know why I didn't keep his mother's dying wish. Tell me please, what will I answer him then?"

The bar mitzvah took place at the proper time!

In this week's parasha Vayeshev, (Genesis 37), we read the sad story of the sale of Joseph. At first the brothers wanted to kill him, but then Reuven, the oldest, convinced them to "just" put him in a pit. And the Bible testifies that Reuven did this because he planned to save him and return him to his father.

The brothers followed his advice, but when a caravan of Ishmaelites passed through, the brothers pulled him out and sold him as a slave. Reuven was not there at the time and when he returned, it was too late.

The Midrash tells us that if Reuben had known it would be written in the Torah forever about his attempt to save Joseph, he would have made a much bigger effort. "He would carry him on his shoulders to his father." (Ruth Rabba 5-6)

Every one of us is entrusted by G‑d with the Jewish education of our
children. We must ensure that we provide our children a solid Jewish
education so that we will never be faced with the question, "Why wasn't I immersed in the richness of Jewish tradition?"

The Lubavitcher Rebbe used to say that every parent should dedicate a half-hour a day to think how he or she can improve the Jewish education of his children. These thoughts will certainly lead to action.

Rabbi Zushe Greenberg is the spiritual leader of Solon Chabad.