A Dvar Torah reflecting on my Bar Mitzvah portion, 5 years later.
I “became” a man, five years ago, in *some* halakhic contexts [some frum people require lower surgery, and some don’t ever consider trans men to be men, but the Rabbi who officiated my Bar Mitzvah did as of this Shabbat 5 years ago].
I had a first/Bat Mitzvah at 12, marking my entry into Jewish adulthood, and I cherish that parsha as well [Toldot, picked it myself, thanks to sibling rivalry], but in Israel, at nineteen, I became Bar Mitzvah along with my re-naming, to Sahar Lev ben Meir Nachman v’ Rina. My only regrets about my Bar Mitzvah were no cool outfits and no loved ones present.
This week’s Parsha, Vayechi, is about family and time. The older I have grown, the more I have grown to appreciate it.
When I wrote my first play, It Takes A Village, I chose to include the blessing from this parsha, that Yakov says to his grandsons. I chose it because of the interconnectedness of family and guardianship by G-d and by spirituality as a whole.
הַמַּלְאָךְ הַגֹּאֵל אֹתִי מִכָּל-רָע, יְבָרֵךְ אֶת-הַנְּעָרִים,
וְיִקָּרֵא בָהֶם שְׁמִי,
וְשֵׁם אֲבֹתַי אַבְרָהָם וְיִצְחָק, וְיִדְגּוּ לָרֹב בְּקֶרֶב הָאָרֶץ.
Which means: May the angel who hath redeemed me from all evil, bless the young ones; and let my name be named in them and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.
We are spiritually connected to our ancestors. Our hopes and dreams and love will outlive us in the future, which is a beautiful sentiment. Grief is painful, but knowing that we are a reflection of our loved ones and that we possess the power to keep their memory alive is one way to take solace.
My grandparents and the other members of my family have made me who I am, even as I go out and am independent of them. My people, the Jewish people, have informed my selfhood for generations and will inform the rest in years to come.
Since Vayechi is the last parsha in the first book, Bereishit, it’s the end of the beginning. And we end each book of the Torah by saying “Chazak, Chazak, VeNitchazek,” which is an affirmation of strength going into a new chapter and the uncertainty leaving behind the old. What a welcome.