On Saturday, we had the honor of attending the bar mitzvah of a young man whom we have known since he was a baby. The service was held at his home temple, which is just a few blocks from our home. I have worshipped and socialized at this temple as a guest many times over the years, and I was happy to see many of my neighbors there. I don't see all the moms on a daily basis anymore, now that I am back to work. I miss the social bond I once had with them.
The bar mitzvah boy is the son of good friends, and he has grown into a handsome and eloquent speaker. He read his Torah excerpt beautifully, and he spoke about it from his heart. The entire congregation was rapt. It happened that the appointed reading for the day, from the book of Exodus, was the song sung by the Hebrews as they reached safety on the far side of the divided Red Sea. For this reason, the rabbi told us, this particular Saturday was referred to as "Shabbat Shirah," or the Sabbath of the Song.
After our young man read his Torah portion and spoke about it briefly, the rabbi addressed him and the congregation in a brief homily. He used the ancient Jewish tradition of midrash, telling an interpretive story to help us understand the teaching of the day. The story involved two elderly Hebrew gentlemen who crossed the Red Sea bed from Egypt into the Promised Land. The water had been parted, and the men proceeded on dry land, but the ground was wet and muddy, and they were concerned about the mud getting all over their feet and their garments. They looked down at the mud and complained at each other about how unpleasant it was to walk through it, and how they were going to have a big cleanup job when they got to the opposite shore.
In fact, the two men complained so much, and so vociferously, that they spent the entire journey looking down. They never once looked up, so they missed the entire experience of being part of one of the greatest miracles in the history of mankind.
The Sabbath of the Song served for me, even as a non-Jew, as a reminder that it is important, as much as possible, to look up and appreciate what I have. It is so easy to get used to looking down at the mud, at the drudgery of daily life, that one can miss the fact that life really is miraculous. Here, in the depths of winter, we have a warm home, good health, and dear friends who invite us to their simchas. We are not members of their faith, but we are a part of their lives, and we are grateful for that. I wish our bar mitzvah boy a long and happy life of looking up and appreciating the miracles. I hope he is witness to many.
We celebrate today the birth of a man who looked up constantly, though he spent all of his life trudging through the dark mire of prejudice and hatred. He was an example to all of us. Many of us still walk in hatred and prejudice, or in its shadow. The seas are parted for us, but we are not making the journey joyfully, and we are not singing the song.
What I am knitting: I had occasion to be in a yarn store yesterday and I bought a sample skein of some really cushy yarn that I thought Becky might like. I knitted a swatch of it for her last night, and she agreed it would make a spectacular sweater. I'll try to get that done before spring gets here.
What's in the crock-pot: We are expecting another storm, so it's Irish stew: beef cubes dredged in flour, mixed with onions, garlic, potatoes, carrots, a can of tomato paste, green peas, and a bottle of Guinness.
Have a good week. Keep looking up.