To my boychik on his bar mitzvah, why I am scared for your future

Soon after the twins’ birth, I caught hubby squinting at Yaron, looking puzzled. “Something is missing,” he muttered, and squinted again.

“What?!” I asked, a lioness hopped up on hormones, ready to defend any alleged defect on my perfect new cub.

“Eyebrows!” he suddenly exclaimed; mystery solved.

And it was true — this blond, blue-eyed child — a yang to his sister Kinneret’s darker yin — was so fair that the curtains of the windows to his soul were still absent.

For us, fresh parents of twins, it was a good early lesson: Raising these two siblings, who were blessed (or cursed) to be born together, would require seeing them each as singular individuals.

Thirteen years later,  it is clear that Yaron — named in honor of his Byzantine history scholar grandfather — has most definitely blazed his own unique path.

Boisterous, joyful, and easy to laugh, Yaron takes after the essence of his name: In the Bible, the word Yaron means, “He will give a ringing cry” — and although usually in joy or exultation, this loud, soulful cry could also be in distress.

He is well aware of this duality in life: Earlier this week Yaron and I had the rare pleasure of one-on-one time. Suddenly, apropos of nothing, he turned to me and said, “You know? In everything there is bad and good. Everything.”

And that’s how his mind works: A shoal of random thoughts — sometimes deep, sometimes light — that are constantly swimming and flitting to his brain’s surface.

In many ways, Yaron is a bundle of unadulterated joy. We as parents originally thought that our dubious task was to tame him. For this we are sorry, for along with his noisy jubilation, he has given our house the gift of laughter.

Sometimes, even during a judo match, it’s too hard not to laugh. (Amanda Borschel-Dan)

We have come to learn over these past 13 years that Yaron’s life is his own adventure. And an even harder lesson: that he should be in charge of it.

But while I can merely look away from his death-defying feats on the playground or judo mat, as he moves out into the world and must increasingly add adult obligations, is shutting my eyes really the answer?

Of all the children, I am often afraid for you, my son. With your wild smile and crazy giggle, I worry that you’ll leap before you look — make an exultant noise, but end in distress.

I worry deeply that in this era of online scrutiny, each and every mistake you make — every action and all your reactions — will be recorded and everlasting.

Looking for a little inspiration and words of wisdom, I turn to the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is read each year on the Shabbat of Sukkot.

Spoiler: It doesn’t have the most uplifting of openings.

“Utter futility! All is futile!… One generation goes, another comes… There is nothing new under the sun.”

It is as though Statler and Waldorf, the old men in the Muppets theater balcony, wrote a biblical book. But Kohelet also says, “There is not one good man on earth who does what is best and doesn’t err.”

In the course of 12 chapters, the wise preacher tells us that no matter who you are, life is temporary and death, the truly final frontier, awaits all.

But the path you take does count for something. Be wise, know when to speak, and when to be silent.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted…
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance…
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak…”

Like an infirm elder offering his often contradictory pearls of wisdom, in this often depressing scroll, Kohelet also divulges the secret to a good life:

“Only this I have found is the real good: that one should eat and drink and get pleasure with all the gains he makes under the sun, during the numbered days of life that God has given him; for that is his portion.”

Now this is wisdom Yaron and I can both get behind: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you shall die.”


About the Author
Amanda Borschel-Dan lives in Israel, where she and her husband are raising their six always hungry children. She is The Times of Israel's Jewish World editor.
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