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For All that is Holy

Pearl of the Post: Pillars of Faith

Somewhere at the crossroads of faith, it clicked. It came into focus.

The vision I've held since first holding my son as a baby. The vision most Jewish moms see - your son as a Bar Mitzvah.

In my version, I've always pictured him standing at the Western Wall draped in his Great Grandfather's Tallit.

That image stuck in my mind for 12 years, through diapers and pre-school, through madness of Madoff, and when we finally got his bar mitzvah date it was becoming all too real.

How do I turn this vision into a reality?

How do I engrain meaning into this rite of passage when every week we'd fight about going to religious school. He'd go kicking and screaming and give me lip about why religion is stupid.

How do you impress how important it is to feel a connection with your faith? That connection cannot be forced, so how do you forge it?

My connection to my faith isn't through the study of the Torah, it's through the living history that pulses throughout my being. It's through the disconnection of generations lost simply because of my family's faith.

It's the stories and the precedence set by the man who proudly wore that talis. He'd pray, kept kosher, tell joke after Jewish joke and recite the accomplishments of renowned Jews as if they were his own kin.

My grandparents would talk in spurts about the life they lived pre-war in Warsaw, Poland. They'd describe their brothers, sisters, cousins, parents and I knew them well, all through these beautiful memories they passed on.

I've heard these first hand accounts all my life but my son only knew them for his first few years of his life. I pass on bits of the bits of stories that I remember, I take them to temple and we observe the holidays.

It's only the kindling to the fire of faith I hope will burn in my children's beings like it does mine.

Our temple floated the opportunity to travel with them to Israel. We'd be going via a tour company with our clergy members and fellow congregants with the chance of becoming a Bar Mitzvah at the Western Wall.

When I came of bat mitzvah age, my parents gave me the option of going to Israel or having a party. Like most tweens, I opted for the party. The party was great, catered by Mr. Omlette and replete with a Cindy Lauper look alike and all that fun stuff but I've always regretted that choice.

I have passed on many chances - birthright, women's groups, etc. to visit the Holy Land.

We hopped on this opportunity immediately.

We had a year ahead of us. A lot can happen inside of a year, especially when it comes to a place as volatile as Israel. I've seen plenty of people make and cancel plans to go there because of safety concerns.

There was always that looming threat and fear - it's not safe - of making the trip to Israel.

It will never be "safe" and the moment this opportunity I arose I turned to my husband and said, "I don't care what's happening, we are going."

And so off we went.

We went ahead of the group to Tel Aviv and spent time there getting adjusted to the time difference and scenery.

Walking through the streets piecing together the notes from my friends who have been. The Anita's ice cream place was delicious and would be a daily stop.

The first big moment was a dinner with my mother's side of the family who lived in and around Tel Aviv. I've only ever met 2 out of the 15 of them many many years in the past.

It was an evening where we began as strangers and left as family. As the evening went on the conversation grew deeper and something seemed to click into place, like puzzle pieces calibrating into each other as they found each other.

Something felt so right, decades lost in knowing each other somehow made okay because that's what family does - it forgives, heals and moves on. Never mind the trauma and tragedy of the past, we were here now.

The trip was one incredible moment leading into the next.

Very early on Thursday morning, we headed over to the Wall.

It was the first morning where the sun was shining bright and it was warm. We had the secular area by Robinson's Arch basically to ourselves which gave us the space we needed to become immersed in the MOMent.

And what a moment.

Rabbi Z set the foundation by noting how we were standing at the foundation of our ancestors who survived and fought and lost but kept on surviving for thousands of years.

My husband and I wrapped my son in my grandfather's Tallit while hearing these words. Cloaked, protected, initiated and now his to wear.

We passed the torah from the elder generation onto my son to read in this present moment and carry forward into the future.

The love we felt from our family, clergy, fellow Mitzvah families and traveling group poured straight into our beings.

I'm pretty sure my son got a good dosage of meaning and love.

It was the most holy moment and I prayed that seed of love and appreciation for our faith will forever blossom into a beautiful connection for my son and our family. A string that cannot be broken, a pearl that he'll always polish and wear with pride.

A moment I don't think i'll ever remember without the tears welling up and my heart bursting open. Maybe not as many tears as Debbie, but waterworks, always.

Naturally, the second the ceremony ended my daughter turned to me and goes "I'm not doing this, I want a party."

So so grateful to The Community Synagogue and Azra World Tours and our guides Uri Feinberg and Shari Robins for helping us manifest a once in a lifetime experience.

My son's Mitzvah Project is to host a pizza party for the Lone Soldiers stationed in Israel via the Lone Soldier Project, please click here to read more and consider contributing to his efforts.

(c) 2019 Cynthia Litman. All Rights Reserved.

Photos by Barak Aron Photography

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