Growing strong: A letter to my son on his Bris

My son – from the second we found out that you were coming into our lives, you struck indescribable fear into the deepest pit of my heart.

Across the last nine months, my mind cycled through three basic emotions: petrifying fear, cautious readiness, and then a brief dip into reluctant anticipation – before plummeting backwards for an extended stay in petrifying fear.

With every little kick in your mother’s stomach, you spoke to me:

Kick. “I’m coming for you.” Kick. “You’ll never sleep again.” Kick. “I’m going to poop on everything you own.”

I was coming to terms with the fact that a human was in there. A little boy dependent on us for everything – to eat, sleep, and survive. With certainty, my days of jaunting off to Bosnia on a whim and swimming into shark dens in Ecuador had an imminent expiration date. The adventures were over and now it was time to be a father.

But the moment I held you, Brody, I fell for you head over heels. When I saw your ten little fingers, ten toes, and the beginnings of my own “prominent” nose, spending New Years Eve in Nairobi or doing a survival hike across the Serengeti suddenly hit the rear-view mirror. I knew I had a new adventure with the highest of stakes, at once daunting, challenging, exciting, and rewarding: raising a man.

Raising a strong man – stronger than I am. Strong like his mother. Braver than me, too. But a humble man that respects his own strength and never abuses it. A man who is strong enough to be kind, who never hesitates for a second to do what is right, and who fights for those not as strong as him. A man who carries a special reverence and respect for the strength of women. A man who knows not only his own strength, but recognizes and brings out the strength in others – a man who is a leader.

A man who makes mistakes and suffers the resulting blows himself, with the strength and resolve to learn from them. A man who loves his country and understands that people stronger than all of us sacrificed everything so that we can live here in freedom, peace, and prosperity. A man who seeks to serve and give back, but understands that often mind and pen are stronger than helmet and gun. And, no matter how strong he is, a man that knows there is something much stronger up above.

December 30 is your birthday, Brody, but only according to the calendar. Your time in this world stretches back to a tiny tenement in 1950s Brooklyn, where Barry, my father and your namesake, overcame poverty and the deepest levels of hardship to achieve his own dreams – becoming a doctor and raising three strong men of his own. His blood runs through you, which assures me that you can become anything, do anything, achieve anything.

In fact, you’re a Bluestein, a Hillman, a Karesh, and a Brody, a cocktail of the finest genetic lineage with the aptitude, drive, and ability, that powered generations of brilliant, hard working, decent, charitable, and strong men.

And you’re a Jew. On your brief eight days on this planet, you haven’t hurt a fly but there are already people that hate you. Remember that in your blood runs the strength of a people that outlasted the hate of powerful empires, kings, czars, and dictators that sought to destroy us for 5,000 years. Your heart beats with the same rhythm of the legions of great warriors, poets, and thinkers who fought to achieve a better world for all of humanity – and were never broken. A people that are part of a special covenant with G-d, which you are honoring here today at your bris. Always be proud of this and they will never beat you, either.

As I type this letter, you’re burrowing into my lap with comfortable coos, peeking up at me with those big blue Karesh eyes. Behind them, I see all of this strength, both in you and in myself, that tells me we can grow into strong men together. That’s why we are gifting you today with the Hebrew name of “Boaz,” meaning “strength is within him.”

You and me, Brody. We’re ready for this – the greatest of all adventures.

About the Author
Max Bluestein is a Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
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