Saturday, June 08, 2013

A Catholic Father's Jewish Son's Bar-Mitzvah

This story was emailed me by my friend, an emissary of the Rebbe is Florida:

This story begins in the summer of 2009. Raizy, myself and the two little kids attended a Judaica art show at one of the local synagogues before the high holidays, which was more of a community meet and greet type of thing. We had a good time and met lots of new people.

At one point I saw a man dressed like a biker, clearly not Jewish, introduce himself to the rabbi of the synagogue who was hosting the event. He told the Rabbi his wife was a nurse at Morton Plant Hospital, she was Jewish and she passed away from cancer at the young age of 40 just 2 years earlier, and on her deathbed she made him vow that he would Bar Mitzvah their only son Adam, who, at the time of her passing, was 7 years old. He explained he was working three jobs to make ends meet and therefore needed the synagogue`s help to fulfill his deceased wife's wishes.

I overheard this entire conversation standing a few feet away. I knew the Rabbi would in fact not help this man Bar Mitzvah his Jewish son. As soon as they concluded their conversation I quietly approached the man, introduced myself, gave him my business card and told him I would help him in every way possible to Bar-Mitzvah his son at no cost. We spoke for a couple of minutes and I also got his info. His name was T_ K_, in his 50`s, a native Floridian, born and raised Catholic, a hardcore biker dude.

I called him several times and even invited him and his son to our annual community Passover Seder, but nothing materialized and over time I forgot about them.

A few of months ago, before Passover, I reminded myself of T_ and his son Adam, and I told myself I must call them. This Jewish kid never had a Bar Mitzvah and if I don’t Bar-Mitzvah him - no one will. The only little problem was, I had his number in one of my pocket calendars from year 2009, which I needed to find. We moved three times since then. I thought about T_ and his son a few times during Passover, and every time I would tell myself I'll look for that pocket calendar later, but that later never materialized, because of the busy Passover requirements ...

Anyhow, a few weeks after Passover I get a call from my good friend Ofer (who built our Torah Ark). He had me on speaker and he was speaking in broken English with a heavy Israeli accent. This was unusual since he's Israeli and whenever we talk, we talk in Hebrew. "Rabbi can you make a Bar-Mitzvah for a 13 year old boy who had problems with another synagogue"? The moment he mentioned "problems with the other synagogue" I knew right away it was money related. I answered "Of course. I will make his Bar-Mitzvah for free!" Ofer tells the guy, "You see, I told you my Rabbi would do it for free".

Ofer gave the guy my number, who called me up a few days later. Sure enough, it was none other than T_ K_, now four years later. We spoke for half an hour about how G-d brought us together the first time and how G-d amazingly brought us together again. We also caught up on old times.

He told me Adam ended up going to that synagogue for about 2 years, then 6 months before he turned thirteen they basically told him good bye. Due to a lack of membership fees, he never had a chance to have his Bar-Mitzvah. Adam turned 13 in January 2013. He is a star baseball player in one of the local leagues; he is in the Boy Scouts; He volunteers at a homeless shelter and has a very good chance of going far with his baseball talent. T_ said "The Jewish people need a good baseball payer! It would be great for the Jewish people and the Jewish religion to have a good baseball player. I don’t know why that synagogue wouldn't bar mitzvah my son!"

I invited T_ to come with his son Adam at his first convenience to Bar-Mitzvah Adam. However due to his many jobs and Adam`s busy schedule he can only come Wednesday afternoon at 6pm. I said sure, no problem; During summer months the sun sets late so we have enough time to wrap the Tefillin and Bar-Mitzvah Adam.

They came to our home Wednesday evening and I put on Tefillin with Adam for the very first time in his life. The kids and myself danced together with Adam and his dad, while (my son) Gershon Aharon took out his little broken guitar and started strumming and singing songs for them. We had some guests over since we have our weekly Challah baking every Wednesday night, so everybody congratulated Adam. It was very moving.

I showed them the interior of the Tefillin and explained to them the meaning of the Mitzvah of Tefillin and its great holiness, for which we wait until a child is 13 years old to don Tefillin and this is actually the reason we celebrate the Bar-Mitzvah altogether. From a spiritual standpoint, then, donning Tefillin is the Bar-Mitzvah itself.

I told Adam his mother is very proud of him and is smiling down at him from heaven for fulfilling her last wish before she passed away, and that he have a Bar-Mitzvah and be raised as a Jew. I explained to him that in Jewish tradition the soul never departs this world. Every time we do a good deed the soul is overjoyed because that is the only thing that has true meaning to the soul.

Every time I mentioned his mother's name Adam would get teary eyed, after all he was only seven years old when she passed away, and T_ as well swelled up a few times, so I made an effort to avoid mentioning her name. It was a very special moment for Adam, T_ and myself.

The final part of this miraculous story is that T_ and Adam came to our synagogue to hear the Ten Commandments on the holiday of Shavuot last Wednesday, and we called up Adam to the Torah for the first time in his life. He received the first Aliyah of the Torah reading and after the Aliyah we all danced together and congratulated him.

To think that this young boy fulfilled his mothers wish on perhaps the greatest day of the year, the day G-d descended on Mt. Sinai to give the Torah, is simply amazing. It shows us how G-d Almighty watches over each and every one of us, in greatest detail. Adam will surely grow up to be a proud Jew and inspire all those around him.

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