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Reflections on My Bar Mitzvah Anniversary: A Journey Through Parshat Bamidbar

As I sit down to pen this reflection, I can't help but be struck by the passage of time—43 years to be precise—since my bar mitzvah, which took place on Parshat Bamidbar. It's amazing how some memories remain as vivid as if they happened yesterday.


One of the most memorable aspects of that time was the bustling energy of our small house, packed to the brim with family who had come to celebrate Shabbat. It was a scene of joyous chaos, with relatives crammed into every nook and cranny, their laughter and conversations mingling in a symphony of familial love. Those moments of togetherness, despite the cramped quarters, were precious and filled with warmth.


The key figures in my life at that time were my friends and our rabbi, Lawrence Charney. My friends provided a sense of camaraderie and shared experience, a vital support system for a nervous 13-year-old about to take a significant step in his Jewish journey. And then there was our rabbi—a tall, imposing figure whose very presence commanded respect. He was intimidating, yet it was through his guidance that I found my way.


Like most 13-year-olds, I was a bundle of nerves on my bar mitzvah day, eager to get through the rituals but also proud of reaching this milestone. I don't recall any specific teachings from that weekend, but what has stayed with me is a deeper understanding of Parshat Bamidbar over the years. The significance of population numbers among the Jews, a theme in Bamidbar, has taken on new meaning for me. Sometimes, it is essential to focus on the numbers, to ensure that every individual is counted and recognized. At other times, the numbers are less important than the community and the collective spirit.


My bar mitzvah was just one stop on a long journey toward my Jewish identity and eventual path to becoming a rabbi. It was a milestone, a marker of progress, but not the final destination. Each subsequent step, each experience, has added layers to my understanding and commitment to our faith.


In reflecting on these past 42 years, I realize how much the synagogue and our community have evolved. The faces may change, but the spirit of unity and shared purpose remains steadfast. To the bar and bat mitzvah students of today, I offer this piece of wisdom: cherish every moment, even the nerve-wracking ones. These experiences are the building blocks of your Jewish identity.


So, as we read Parshat Bamidbar this year, let's remember the importance of every individual within our community and the journey each of us undertakes. And maybe, just maybe, we'll find a moment to laugh at the beautifully chaotic, cramped family gatherings that bring us all together.


Rabbi Tecktiel


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