Thirteen / by Susie Lubell

Photo credit:  Noya Shiloni-Haviv

Photo credit: Noya Shiloni-Haviv

Dear Shalevi

I don’t know if you know this but I’ve been writing you a letter every year for your birthday since you were born. This year, surrounded by family and friends, and two months after the fact, I’m going to read you your letter. I only wish your Grandpa Stanley could be with us also. He would be SO proud.

You did it! You became bar mitzvah. It wasn’t easy. I remember how difficult it was for all of us when we first moved to Israel when you were only 7 and yet you managed to find your place here with the greatest ease. Knowing that your mom wouldn’t be able to keep up with all of the whatsapp messages and emails in Hebrew about school work, you just handled it. You took on the responsibility for both of us: school meetings, vacations, field trips, which books to buy, which notebooks to buy (Until the day I die I will never understand the difference or necessity of 10 shurot or 14 shurot or machberet chachama). I’m not sure it was fair to rely on you in that way, when you were still so young, but I think it made you the reliable young man that you are today. You add so much to our lives Shalev. Your sense of humor. Your honesty. Your sense of justice. Your ability to program a television. And back up my phone. And remember all of my passwords. I’m not sure what I would do without you.

From the time you were very small Aba and I remarked, sometimes in awe and sometimes in utter desperation, about your unique disposition. We called it High persistence. Low distractibility. Even as a little boy you were like one of our Judean Desert flash floods. Whatever sparked your curiosity, whether electricity, technology, film making, politics, interior design, you would get to the bottom of it, sometimes crushing us along the way. I’m sure it’s not easy to have parents who don’t know a CPU from an MP3 from a C3PO. But that has never stopped you.

And yet for all of your passion for technology, you are so many other things too. Piano, hockey, scouts, film editing, Milk and Honey Artshop. And now bar mitzvah. We’ve seen an incredible shift in you these last few months as you prepared for this day. From active resistance, to hesitation, to ambivalence, to curiosity, to participation and finally a sense of obligation. Just like Moshe who spent the better part of your parasha whining to God about having to lead the Jewish people out of slavery, you too were not so thrilled with the idea of training for your aliyah l’torah. But at some point you let go of your reluctance and trusted the process. We’re so glad you did. And we hope you’re as proud of this accomplishment as we are.

I just want to close by saying that even though today you are a man and in the coming years the world will expect more from you, more decisions, more responsibility, greater consequences, and even though your natural maturity has always meant that you found favor in your teachers and other adults, you can still be a kid for a while longer. You can play and pretend and be silly and naïve and forgetful and overwhelmed and scared. Your family is always here for you.

I love you mieces to pieces.