Hannah's recent post, at A Mother in Israel, reminded me that I never posted about the first time my son put on tefillin.
Traditionally, boys start putting on tefillin a month before they are Bar Mitzvah. This gives the boy a chance to learn what to do, so that he is comfortable with the procedure by the time he is actually obligated to put on tefillin (when he turns 13). Once the boy starts putting on tefillin, he should not miss even one day.
A month before our son's Bar Mitzvah, right after school ended, he was going on a three day tiyul (hike). We all agreed that it did not make sense for him to start putting on tefillin just a few days before he was going away for three days. So we waited until he came back from the tiyul.
We had not planned on doing anything special. We felt that just the act of putting on the tefillin for the first time was monumental enough. But our son asked to put on his tefillin for the first time at the Kotel (Western Wall).
Interestingly, he noted that going to the Kotel is not as special to him as it might be for other kids, since he went to the Kotel a lot with his school, in the Rova (Jewish Quarter of the Old City). I recognized that, and added that it is not the same as going up to Har HaBayit
(the Temple Mount). His eyes lit up. Wouldn't that be something, we both thought outloud.
So, Moshe planned to take our son to the Kotel on Sunday morning, right after the tiyul. It was not until later that we remembered that Sunday was the first day of his kaytana (two-week summer camp) where he would learn to program in FLASH.
So, even though Moshe is not a morning person, he planned to take our son early in the morning, so our son would not be late on the first day.
Closer to the date, we learned that the kids were expected to arrive half an hour early "just" on the first day, for orientation. Moshe could not fathom how he could take our son to the Kotel any earlier, and we called the school to find out just how necessary it was to arrive so early. It was not that necessary, so we gave it a pass.
That Shabbat, Moshe's parents came to us. I had already started radiation and my mother in law brought all the food with her. We planned for my in laws to stay over on Saturday night as well, so my father in law could be there for when our son put on tefillin for the first time. Over the course of Shabbat, both our daughters and my mother in law expressed their interest in being there as well. If everyone else was going, then I wasn't going to be left out!
So, from what started out as a father-son event, became a three generation family event.
We all got up bright and early and went to the Kotel.
Moshe had gone over the basics with our son, so he was not at a complete loss about what to do. Even so, Moshe walked our son through each step.
For a change, I had remembered to charge the video camera and asked my mother in law to bring her camera (since ours was broken). I took lots of pictures.
We were lucky, and just after we arrived, Rabbi Danny Landes, Director and Rosh Yeshiva of Machon Pardes, arrived with a minyan and we davened together. (Every year, for almost ten years now, I attend Rabbi Landes's 3:00 am shiur on Shavuot night. I ask a lot of questions, so he knows who I am.) It was a special "bonus" to have a minyan led by someone we know. And davening (praying) was really nice.
I could tell that our son was proud to be putting on tefillin, and happy that we had all made the effort to make it something special.
As we were about to go, I realized we did not have a picture of us all together. I stopped a tourist, who was all too happy to take our picture.
We stood together and smiled. We could not have been happier.
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,