Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Bris Speech

Good morning, everyone.

On behalf of my wife and myself, we would like to thank everyone who made the effort to come to our simcha and of course to the Ribbono Shel Olam Who has sustained us and brought us to this occasion, Whose kindness is a bechina of ketonti m'kol hachasadim...

I'd like to say a few words about the rach hanimol's namesake; I know that it's a workday and a school day, so I'll try to keep it short.

This particular simcha is very special for me personally, as this is the first time that I have merited to name a child after one of my own grandparents. My son is named after Reb Dov ben Reb Meir, my father's father, whom I was fortunate enough to know for a good portion of my life. Truthfully, I encountered my grandfather as an elderly man, but even at his advanced stage of life I was able to sense the uniqueness of his character, what my father one time described as Oz, might or strength.

My grandfather did not lead an easy life. A survivor and an immigrant, he escaped the fiery crucible of the Holocaust and withstood the melting pot of assimilationist America. His determination and resolve to not allow anything to get in the way of his commitment to Torah and Judaism enabled him to live in a spiritual desert and - along with my grandmother Liba - cause Judaism to flourish in the Pacific Northwest in Portland, Oregon. My grandfather made no compromises; one anecdote involved the "kosher" butcher in Portland refusing to show my grandfather his shechita knife - my grandfather went years without touching meat until innovations allowed for importing from Seattle or California.

I remember reading Holocaust memoirs and interviews conducted with my grandparents. At one point, my grandfather mentioned that as a young adolescent in Europe (before the war) he had "rebelled" and experimented with certain behaviors that ran counter to observant Judaism. For a long time I was unsettled by this anomalous "blip" in his lifetime, which didn't seem congruent with the man I knew and had heard about, growing up. But then I realized that this was precisely in line with who my grandfather was, as he exemplified the rebellious attitude that was necessary so many years later in America to survive and thrive as a religious Jew against the zeitgeist of acculturation. Perhaps as a youngster it manifested as inward facing rebellion against his own upbringing but ultimately he figured out how to channel it in the healthiest way...

Today, it is also somewhat an act of rebellion to live as Jews, indeed to bring children into the world, one that seems to be coming apart at the seams at times. But ma'aseh Avot siman l'Banim, and as we read the portions of the Torah at this time of year, that's all we have. We learn from our forbears' actions, at the way the Avot went against the grain amid a world that was chaotic and idolatrous and didn't allow themselves to be swayed left or right.

There is an exhortation to ask masai yagi'u ma'asai l'ma'asai Avosai, Avrohom Yitzchok v'Ya'akov? If one can say such a thing, I would recommend to my newborn son - indeed, all of my children that they need not look that far back. They already have strong, courageous role models a generation back in our grandparents.

May they bring honor to all of their namesakes.

1 comment:

Micha Berger said...

As I generally say when learning that someone is the grandchild of a survivor:
זוכר חסדי אבות יביא גואל לבני בניהם!

כשם שנכנס לברית כן ישמע מלכנו קורא ״הקהל״ת יעלה לרגל ויכנס לתורה, לחופה ולמעשים טובים!

.. and in that order! (i.e. בב״א!)