Well Toby,

The first recorded sentence out of your mouth was a question: “Whereareyou?” Toby, you have been asking us questions and searching for answers ever since. Back then we usually had a ready answer, or so we thought . A typical exchange with you might have gone something like this: “What is the capital of Canada?”, “Ottawa, Tob”, “Where’s Ottawa?”, “North and East of here”. “How long would it take to drive there?”, “About 8 hours, Tob”.At this point we thought we were done and then you’d usually pull out the stumper…. “What does the word Ottawa mean?” “Ummmm….” And sure enough, when we didn’t have an answer for you, you’d go and look it up yourself.

Now, somewhere along the way we started asking you questions “Tob, Where’d we park the car?” “East parking lot, level 5, next to the Honda civic”. “Oh”. You often saved us a lot of time wandering the vast wasteland of parking garages. “What’s the capital of North Dakota?” “”What is clarified butter?”,”Who exactly was Genghis Kahn.”, This was usually followed by us shaking our heads in wonder asking, “How did you know that?” with you answering, “I just do”.

Well. That brings us to last summer and you almost stumped us. “Why do I have to have a Bar Mitzvah?” Now, our first intention was to bring out the tried and true answer of most parents, “Because we say so.” It’s a difficult thing for a parent to convince a son or daughter that a year of tutoring and studying Torah, saying prayers, leading services, writing a dvar Torah, and needing to stand in front of a lot of people listening to you chant will be a fun, interesting and meaningful thing to do. So, we delayed answering you, hoping you’d figure it out along the way, as you usually manage to do. So here we are on the day of your Bar Mitzvah and I guess we are curious to know if you found an answer. “Why did you have a Bar Mitzvah?”. Don’t worry. We aren’t expecting a ready answer from you right now, because we know that it’s a tough one. We also know that you might not even know today, standing on the bima, why you went through all this hard work leading up to this day. One thing we do know is that somewhere along the way of this year-long journey you did figure something out and you ran with it.

Every so often, we’d hear the sound of Torah trope drifting down the stairway from your room, or the chanting of prayers coming from the back seat of the car. We’d check with Annette to see how your progress was coming along and she’d reassure us that you were on top of it and knew the score. Whew. Maybe you found the answer by seeing your classmates successfully go through the process one by one throughout the year. Maybe it stems from being brought up with Shabbat celebrations every week at Grandma and Grampa’s, maybe it was the summers spent at GUCI and our involvement in temple. Maybe it has to do with your fierce pride in your Israeli heritage. Or maybe, it’s because we said so.

Whatever the reasons we know that one day you’ll look back on this day and discover your own answers. As you know, it isn’t always easy being a Jew and that sometimes there are no easy answers to the tough questions. “Do I keep kosher for the entire week of Pesach, even though I am sick and tired of matzah and would prefer a pizza right now?”, “Should I stay home tonight and celebrate Shabbat with the family, or go out with friends? “Do I spend the day at temple or go to school to write the math test?” (Some answers are easier than others), This will be the year that you will start to figure things out for yourself as a Jewish adult and what it means to you to be a Jew, without necessarily looking to us for the quick answer or permission that you once did. You will start to decide for yourself the answer to these tough questions and prepare yourself for the more difficult ones you will face throughout your life. You are so fortunate to have the support of our Shir Tikvah community and the wisdom of Rabbi Offner to help guide you along the way. Do know that we will all be with to help you discover the answers when you are not sure.

Tob, I’m not sure what most people see when they look at you right now standing on the Bima. If they don’t know you too well, they probably just see a relieved kid who looks pretty typical for a bar mitzvah boy. Don’t get me wrong. Some of the things you do are very typical. You can’t resist teasing your sister at least 30 times a day (40, if you’ve had a good night’s sleep) and sometimes we need a crowbar to pry you away from the computer. But, what I see when I look at you, is anything but typical. I see the teenager you are today but I also see the baby we brought home from the hospital. You had a scream that would wake the dead. I also see the three year-old who would stand on a street corner calling out the names of cars as they drove by: “oldsmobile, honda, jaguar, subaru..” I see the very shy pre—schooler who, when finally joining the morning circle at nursery school, prompted the teachers to celebrate. I can see the “evil eye” look that you occasionally would pull on us that would make a devil weep. I also see the child who would fearlessly play grandpa at chess, not thinking for a minute that he’d lose. I see the little boy who preferred watching cooking shows and t.v. car ads rather than Barney. I also see a kid who used to race to sit on Grandma’s lap as soon as we’d start singing Birkat Hamazon at the end of our Shabbat dinner together. You probably never saw the smile you brought to her face every time! I see an intelligent, sensitive, loving, funny son who is an excellent big brother to his 3 younger siblings. I also see someone who seems to have an endless capacity to question , learn and try new things. Chess, trumpet, hockey, karate, cooking, computing, ceramics, reading….you do it all.

We are so proud of you today, but that is nothing new. There isn’t a day that goes by when we aren’t proud of you. You’ve had accomplishment after accomplishment this year, but this day outshines them all. The one thing I hope you will always remember when you look back on your Bar Mitzvah is the amount of rescheduling, planning and effort that your family and friends had to suddenly do, when faced with the blackouts out on the east coast, just to be here today. They did not make this trip from Israel, Canada and from across the States just to check out the sights of Minneapolis, shop at the MOA and eat at Dairy Queen (well…) They came here today because they love you, have watched you grow up, and are so happy to know you, because you are who you are. Toby, you know how much Ian and I love you and we will always make it our duty to remind you just in case you forget at times.

I was hoping to end this speech with very meaningful, important words of wisdom from a great scholar to inspire you. I know that other families might find inspiration in the words of the great sages of our time like Aristotle, Einstein or perhaps Maimonidies. But no, not in our family. In our family, we usually quote Bart, Homer and Lisa. Oddly enough, after hours of research I could not really find anything meaningful that Bart might have said about completing something as monumental as a Bar Mitzvah. The closest I got was, and I quote, “I didn't do it, no one saw me do it, there's no way you can prove anything”. Homer would probably be standing up here with his mind already on the buffet luncheon “mmmm…bagels and cream cheese with a slice of lox…’. So, as usual it was only the sage Lisa who actually had a quote I could use. Lisa once said “Trust in yourself and you can achieve anything”. Toby you did just that. You did trust in yourself, your skills and knowledge and you achieved this wonderful, wonderful thing today and we couldn’t be prouder. We can’t wait to see what comes next.

Mazal Tov.