This August marks the fiftieth anniversary of my becoming a Bar Mitzvah. “Back in the day” in a G-d forsaken city in central Canada, there was no such thing as Bar Mitzvah speeches or Bar Mitzvah projects. In many cases, there was no party/dinner either. Instead, parents of the Bar Mitzvah entertained at home.
We live in a different world than our parents. Many Bar/Bat Mitzvah projects are off the wall, while some Bar / Bat Mitzvah receptions are over the top. Thirteen year old Nachaliel Jacobson is both a refreshing, as well as inspiring exception to the rule. Nachaliel was not prepared to accept that we live in a different world than our parents. Instead, he decided to make a difference in this world for other children. Before his mother or father could approach any caterer or party planner, the New York Yeshiva day school student presented his parents with the following plan which was not up for discussion: All monies which Nachaliel would receive in gifts, together with monies he could raise singlehandedly, augmented with funds from his own savings and entrepreneurship, would be used for a party, replete with clowns and all sorts of merrymaking at the Zichron Menachem Center in Israel. The Zichron Menachem Center caters to children with cancer. The guest list totaled 300 – children and family members. Nachaliel traveled to Israel to be part of his Bar Mitzvah celebration.
I take my yarmulke off to Nachaliel, because he understands the MiSheberach L’Cholim or Prayer for those in need of HaShem’s healing better than most. Nachaliel understands that R’fuat HaNefesh or healing of the soul is a sine qua non for R’fuat HaGuf or healing of the body. Let the medical specialists at Zichron Medical Center and other hospitals do everything medically possible for their patients. At the same time, let Nachaliel as well as other sensitive individuals do their part in putting a smile on the faces as well as planting a smile in the souls of these patients, so that their spiritual needs are tended to as well.
I take my yarmulke off to Nachaliel, because he does the term Jew proud. Jews are contrarians. This is both the recipe as well as the secret to Jewish survival. In addition to relegating Mah Nishtanah to the Passover seder, Nachaliel dared internalize Mah Nishtanah and ask: what can I do, that will set me off as being different from so many of my contemporaries who are also reaching the age of Bar Mitzvah? Nachaliel understood being different in a most positive, altruistic way.
I take my yarmulke off to Nachaliel, because he does the term Bar Mitzvah proud. Rejecting the meaningless dribble of “This is your day” that all too many rabbis are guilty of parroting and promulgating, Nachaliel emphatically stated: No, this is not my day. This is their (children with cancer) day!
Typically at a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, we wish the parents of the celebrant much naches. To Nachaliel’s parents, much naches is a foregone conclusion.