Chaim Ingram

No bar to a mitzvah

On the third day, two of Jacob’s sons, Shimon and Levi, brothers of [the abducted] Dina, took, each man his sword (Gen 34:25).

Levi was 13 years old at the time …implied is that whenever the Torah uses the word ish (man) it refers to a male over 13 who is termed an adult. (Midrash Lekach Tov).

 It’s interesting that our Sages derive the age of bar mitzvah from an account of a kidnapping and rape of the first daughter of Israel (alias Jacob) by Shechem (of the ancient Hivite tribe). Sadly, atrocities against our nation have not ceased. The events of 22/7 (the Hebrew date of Simchat Torah in Israel) prevented my wife and me from flying to Israel five weeks ago for our only grandson’s bar mitzvah simcha, but didn’t mar our celebrations from afar.

Coincidence is a word that does not feature in my vocabulary. A dictionary definition of the word “coincidence” is “a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection”. I have no problem with the first part of the definition but take issue with the second. Seeing as there is a First Cause of the universe, there is always causal connection when so-called coincidence occurs!

The day of my grandson Efraim’s 13th birthday – 19 Cheshvan – was also the day that Seder Nashim, the third of the six “orders” of the Talmud, was concluded in the Daf Yomi cycle. Somehow with the help of the One Above, I have scrambled to this half-way milestone in my learning (albeit at times very superficially) of each Daf. So Efraim and I had a shared simcha.

But this was not all.  Efraim made us very proud by successfully concluding the learning of Massechet Taanit which he marked with a siyyum (public recitation of the last part of the Gemara) at his bo ba-yom (birthday) party.

However the final surprise was from me to him!

I conducted a siyyum at  my local shtiebl  on the last part of Massechet Kidushin, the final tractate of Seder Nashim dealing with marriage laws (and many other things besides!) I could not have scripted this last section more appropriately for our “double Simcha” – Efraim’s and mine – had I tried!

After 82 long and often labyrinthine double pages of this complex Talmudic tractate, this is how the final piece of Gemara ends:-

R’ Nehorai says: I put aside every trade in the world and I teach my son only Torah. For every trade in the world stands by a person only in their youth but in old age they are exposed to hunger! (There were no pension schemes in the time of the Talmud!) But Torah is not so. It stands by a man in his youth and provides him with  future [in the World to Come] and a hope in his old age. Concerning the time of his youth, what does it say? “Those whose hope is in G-D shall renew their strength; they shall sprout wings like young eagles” (Isaiah 40:31). Concerning his old age what does it say? “They will still be fruitful in old age; vigorous and fresh will they be! (Psalms 92:25).

So the very last words of the Gemara speak about the incomparable benefits of Torah both in youth and in old age on the very day my youthful bar mitzvah einikel and his old Zaidy enjoyed a joint Torah celebration!!!

My Siyyum was videoed (thank you Shaul!) and I appended a message to my grandson which I sent him on What’s App.   I reproduce an extract below:-

My dear Efraim. It’s not only the timing of this Daf Yomi Siyyum that’s so amazing,  but also the content of the last daf (page) of Kiddushin and of Seder Nashim, that I just explained, is tailor-made to a bar mitzvah bochur and particularly one such as you.  The Daf spoke about putting aside every trade in the world and learning only Torah. Your parents send you to a school where you learn Torah in the morning, Torah in the afternoon and Torah in the evening. Your day, your week, your Zman, your year is centred around Torah. BH your home is centred around Torah. …..I also know that …. as you grow up, you will succeed in [whatever you do] because you’re very sharp and very practically-minded, … and in that you take after both your parents. You’re also a very caring brother to your younger sisters ….. Your dear Babu and I are sad that we cannot be with you but I’m going to tell you something. I have taught many many bar mitzvah boys and for a lot of them their bar mitzvah party is the big day and then there’s a bit of a let down because that’s all it is, a party, and then all forgotten.     But for you, yes, you’re having a modest birthday Se’uda tonight with your friends , you’re going to eat schnitzel and cholent, you’ll sing, you’ll say a Dvar Torah (which, unbeknownst to me at the time, turned into a Siyyum), on Shabbos you’ll lein, you’ll say Haftora and you gave us a geshmake preview earlier today, and there’ll be NO let-down because that will be the beginning of a life of mitzvos d’Oraisa vdeRabonon and learning Torah as a Godol. At your B’ris we gave you a bracha:  zeh koton godol yihyeh – in a few hours you’ll be a godol in age, Please G-D,  you will grow to be a godol in Torah, in avoda (service of G-D), in yir’as Shamayim (reverence for Heaven) and in midos tovos (good character traits) – and in the merit of there being, as of tonight Israel time, one more, (at least)  bar mitzvah bochur learning, davening, doing mitzvos, may we merit to see all our Shevuyim (captives) coming home, all our Pitsuim (wounded) healed and indeed may we witness the ultimate simcha of the ge’ula shleima (Final Redemption) bekorov (very soon)!

About the Author
Rabbi Chaim Ingram is the author of five books on Judaism. He is a senior tutor for the Sydney Beth Din and the non-resident rabbi of the Adelaide Hebrew Congregation. He can be reached at
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