July 24, 2022

Words of Wisdom

Filed under: Michael — michael @ 2:52 am

As Shabbat services came to their conclusion, the rabbi said, “now let us go downstairs and see what awaits us.”  Those ominous words could be interpreted as a simple life lesson that no one can predict the future, or that life is an adventure and best lived when we look to discover and cherish each moment, or how lucky we are to have something to look forward to with our ability to make choices and with individual freedom.  The rabbi also could have meant that there may or may not be food, and if there was food, could it be tuna fish or egg salad. I am happy to report that the answer to the rabbi’s question was tuna.  

But well after the tuna was gone the words of “what awaits us” still linger in my mind.  It is the quest for answers and certainty that we all crave.  We know when the sun will rise and set, we know Monday follows Sunday, and we know that Bill Wallen will be outstanding when he represents the Jewish community at a life cycle event.  Earlier this month, Bill, representing AAC, gave the following remarks to Bar Mitzvahs Connor and Grant Okonak.  I found his remarks inspiring so they are enclosed below for our entire community. Thanks, Bill.

Okonak B’nai Mitzvah- July 2,2022

Presentation from the Congregation

Connor and Grant, this is an important and exciting day for you, your family, and our Congregation. Today you officially join our community- the community of the Jewish people. You already belong to a number of groups- your family, B.G., your sports teams and other friends. Look around you and see that they are all here to support you as you join our Jewish community.

You are the newest links in a chain that has been unbroken for over 3500 years. It began at Mount Sinai where God and the Jewish people entered into a contract or Covenant. God offered the 10 Commandments and the rest of the Torah to the entire Jewish people in exchange for their agreement to live by the ethics and morals within. The people accepted and the Covenant began. That Covenant must be constantly renewed. It is offered to every Jewish boy and girl and today each of you has accepted the Covenant and become a Bar Mitzvah- a son of the Commandments.

As I look around the sanctuary, I recognize many of your family members. I also remember others of your family who are no longer with us, who are of blessed memory and who I am sure are here in spirit. They are all strong links in the chain and they paved the way for you to be here. They are all a part of you and you are their legacy. I see and I remember: Seltzers, Thalers, Burrows, Nederlanders, Gillers, and Altbergs. You are descended from courageous Holocaust survivors, and determined immigrants who not only lived through war and danger but who came here and thrived. They were builders of our congregation and of our community. They were and are leaders in business, dentistry, education, downtown revitalization, and economic development.

How fortunate you are to have known and learned from your great-grandparents and some of the others who are no longer with us. You can make their lives a blessing by doing acts of kindness in their memory. You honor them and all of your family members by living your lives in an ethical way as guided by the Commandments.

Today our Congregation welcomes you, our newest B’nai Mitzvah. You have demonstrated your knowledge of Hebrew and taught us from the Torah. I’m happy to have been part of your Jewish journey- from your first year in Hebrew, when we sat in the balcony and identified objects on the bimah, until today seeing you leading us in prayer. On behalf of Agudath Achim Congregation, I’m proud to present you each with a Bible- our Tanakh, containing all of the Commandments, and a certificate of your Bar Mitzvah.

Connor and Grant, you are already wonderful young men. May you only continue to grow in knowledge, compassion and love. Mazel Tov.

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