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Not "if," but "how"

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

My niece Roni celebrated her Bat Mitzvah and I was thinking about the blessing that would be appropriate for her. But that's not so easy these days since our generation is different. If once a Bat MItzvah – and the obligation to keep mitzvot – was celebrated in a spirit of selfless devotion, if once we lived in fear for our lives yet kept our traditions and identity at all costs, today the world is more open, more comfortable, and we are much more spoiled. Everything is available and accessible. It's no longer a problem to build a sukkah or to learn Torah. So what is left for this generation to do?

I said to Roni that it's not a question of "if" you will keep the mitzvot, but "how" you will keep them. It's clear that you will go to hear the blowing of the shofar on Rosh HaShanah. We are no longer living in a land where you had to walk kilometers through the snow in order to hear the shofar, or we had to hide from the communists to hear it. Today, we are privileged to live otherwise and can keep all the mitzvot we desire. Our concern is not about if we will hear a shofar, but how we will hear it. Will we get excited, will we experience renewal, will we understand the significance of the shofar's siren sound?

It's not about "if" you will do what your parents ask, but "how" you will do it. It's not about if you will pray and keep Shabbat, but how. It's not about if you will learn Torah, but how. In other words, the question is not about what you are doing, but whether you are you doing it with enthusiasm.

In short, life is not a series of technical instructions that need to be checked off. The mitzvot you accept upon reaching the age of 12 are not a dry list of operating directives. The purpose of life, after all, is to bring our heart and soul into everything we do.

Mazal tov.


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