January 23, 2016

Beshallah

Annie Rose,

When your mother and I discussed what we should say to you today, I thought first about Parshat Bo. Sometimes, looking back is the easiest way to see the way forward. Last week was the prelude to our freedom. We were, in essence, on the brink of today, on the brink of your Bat Mitzvah. It was a defining moment in our history as today is a defining moment in your life. Such moments demand speeches. Moses spoke then and I looked to Moses for inspiration and guidance. Having brought the greatest world power to submission and overseeing the birth of the eternal nation that Gd promised to Abraham, Moses might have said anything. What did he say?

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He said, if I might sum it up concisely, “Remember this day.”

Annie Rose, Remember this day.

Remember the day you read from the Torah. Remember our Exodus. Remember that Gd did not direct Moses to take the most direct route to the land we know as Israel. We went the roundabout way. Sometimes the journey is part of the destination. Sometimes, too, we are not yet ready for the destination. Patience isn’t just a virtue; for Jews, it is a necessity. While this arduous detour may seem odd, Hashem has a good reason for everything that happens to us—remember that too. Remember, Annie Rose, that very often we may seem lost only to discover we are just where we need to be and at just the right time: the parting of a sea!

Remember the parting of The Sea of Reeds. Remember that what at first may seem a formidable obstacle, may at last prove a blessing, a miracle, a source of redemption. Remember the Song at The Sea. The song, a declaration of our faith in Hashem, is so fundamental to Judaism and so iconic to our Exodus, that we repeat it in our daily prayers.

Remember that prayer isn’t just for the High Holidays.

Remember this day Annie Rose when life seems overwhelming. Think of Moses, fatigued, sitting on a rock, holding up his staff to the heavens as we battled the Amalekites. His arms were heavy, and he needed the help of his brother Aaron and a friend, to keep the staff raised. He couldn’t do it alone. When you need help, ask for it. Moses did. Remember too that Moses wasn’t holding his staff up to appear regal. We are not a royal people. Moses was pointing to the Heavens. He was reminding the Israelites the source of their strength. Look up to Hashem. He is the source of our strength. It’s how we prevailed against all odds then, throughout millennia, and it is how you will prevail when life seems a battle.

Annie Rose, remember that you are a continuation of this epic narrative and not separate from it. Remember that Gd brought you out of Egypt. You sang with Miriam on the sea bank just as you sing today the same song. Remember that, like Miriam concluding Moses’s song, you possess gifts that only you can contribute to the story of your family and friends, of our people, and to the story of the whole world.

Annie Rose, you are so kind and nurturing—what future contribution will you make with these beneficent qualities? You have creativity and inspiration that never ceases—whether it is writing a story, sewing a dress, making a dress out of colored balloons, or making anything out of duck tape—what will you create for the world? Is all that is required for Tikkun Olam to be complete, a little more duck tape? Can you sew together our broken world? Will you write the happy ending we all hope for? Your talent begs the question. You work so hard in school; there is nothing you can’t achieve—what will you become: a fashion designer, a writer, a doctor, or, most important of all, a Jewish mother like Mommy? You are a devoted friend, and your friends are the most wonderful young women—we love them all. The company you keep says much about you: we hope you keep it and continue to make new friendships, in equal measure, all your life.

You are the most loving sister a brother could ever hope for, and, Noah loves you back in kind. The two of you are not simply siblings; you are true friends. Grow with Noah, in friendship and as a sister, as you grow up. Never grow apart.

Annie Rose, remember this day, remember that you too possess the courage and hope and faith of Miriam and Deborah, who are the central heroins of this Parshat and its HafTorah, which you have chanted today, and of Anne Frank too, for whom you are named.

Remember that you are part of the greatest song ever sung—the Torah. If you do, you will never forget who you are, how much we love you, where you have come from and where you belong.

Seas will part for you. Friends will stand beside you.

You will never be without a song and you will never be alone to sing it.