These are trying times for all of us. Despite challenges ahead, Oro Shel Adam continues to inspire and build Jewish life in our yishuv. We talk with Rabbi Miller about his son Tuvia’s Bar Mitzvah and his Yeshivah student’s engagement.
Engagement of Akiva Shapiro and Tuvia Miller Bar Mitzvah
OSA: What’s new at Oro Shel Adam?
It’s been a very exciting couple of weeks in our community. Akiva Shapiro, who has been in the yeshiva now for over a year, got engaged just over two weeks ago. My wife and I along with the entire Kehila were overjoyed to hear the news. He came over immediately after the announcement and we made a L’chaim together! Akiva is our first student to become engaged while living in the OSA yeshiva. We have already started studying the laws of marriage in preparation for his wedding coming up at the beginning of the summer. One of my great joys in life is to prepare Chossanim for their wedding, both in terms of Halacha and general marriage preparation.
Secondly, this past Shabbat we celebrated the bar mitzvah of our son Tuvia in our community. Baruch Hashem it’s been a very joyous period for us. After five weeks of lockdown, we needed it.
OSA: Tell us more about your son Tuvia’s Bar Mitzvah.
Tuvia Millers Birth Story
Tuvia’s birth, birthdate and bris were anything but normal, why would we expect anything different for his bar mitzvah?
Terror Attack at Mercaz Harav Yeshiva
A quiet Jerusalem Thursday night in march of 2008 was interrupted with the disturbing sound of siren after siren and ambulance after ambulance. We turned on the radio to discover the tragic news that we were hearing the sound effects of a terror attack going on a few neighborhoods over in the Mercaz Harav Yeshiva. That night eight high school yeshiva students were gunned down by a lone Palestinian terrorist in the Mercaz Harav Library in Kiryat Moshe, Jerusalem. The entire country went to sleep in horror and in mourning over the devastating massacre.
Labor at Shaarai Tzedek Hospital
A couple of hours later, still in the middle of the same night, my wife Batya (Miller) went into labor. She gave birth in Shaarai Tzedek Hospital at 7am. While we were overjoyed to give birth to a healthy baby boy, our first son, we could not ignore that we were sharing the hospital with those that were injured in the terror attack from the previous night. We will never forget the background of Tuvia’s birth. In so many ways he continues the legacy of these eight young men whose lives were so horribly cut short.
In addition to both of Tuvia’s older sisters getting chicken pox the week of his bris, Tuvia himself had an eye infection. The entire week after his birth we were unsure if we would be able to have his bris on-time because of this infection. The Mohel told us that if we are to wake up on the 8th day and his eye infection clears we would be obligated to do the circumcision. Sure enough, with no caterer and no plans to have the Bris and celebration, Tuvia’s eye infection began clearing 12 hours before we were meant to hold the Bris. Late into the night I rushed in to the Geula neighborhood (the only place in Jerusalem with an open bagel shop at that hour) and picked up 60 bagels. We spread the message to family and friends and held the Bris and a beautiful celebration on the 8th day – the 7th of Adar II, the day of Moshe Rabbenu’s birth and yahrzeit.
30th of Adar I and Leap Year
The Hebrew date of Tuvia’s birth was the 30th of Adar I (Rosh Chodesh). This date by far is the most complicated date of the Jewish calendar. Perhaps it is liken to the 29th of February. We were hoping that Tuvia’s bar mitzvah would fall out on a leap year so there would be no complications with the date of his bar mitzvah. We were disappointed to discover that 5781 (this year) is not a leap year and the question of when and how to observe a bar mitzvah for a date that doesn’t exist was going to have to be somehow resolved. After thoroughly researching the topic, I concluded that the appropriate date would be Rosh Chodesh – the 1st of Adar, Parshat Mishpatim/Shkalim.
Those of us that were hoping for less excitement and fan-fare for Tuvia’s bar mitzvah were once again frustrated to discover that the celebration of Tuvia becoming a man matched perfectly his birth and his bris.
Bar Mitzvah and COVID-19
Who would have ever thought when Covid-19 struck the world in February/March of 2020, we would see it reach a peak 10 months later, the period leading up to Tuvia’s bar mitzvah? Israel entered its third Coronavirus lock-down on January 1st 2021 and the country remained completely shut down until February 7th, less than a week before the bar mitzvah. As the date approached, we were unsure if close family members were going to be able to join us in Adam for the celebration. Likewise, my wife wondered how we were going to buy new clothes or decorations for the special Shabbat with most stores being closed. Thank God, in the nick of time, the right stores opened to be able to buy Tuvia and his siblings new clothes and we purchased whatever else we needed to make the celebration festive.
It was a great blessing that we were able to welcome Tuvia’s grandparents, Savta and Grandpop Miller in Adam for the simcha. That being said, many other family members were not able to attend due to the complicated circumstances of Covid. A family wants nothing more than to celebrate with their loved ones at mile-stones. This was hard to come to terms with. Ultimately, a person has to accept the will of Hashem. The last twelve months have taught us this very lesson. Have we ever learned it!!
How did the actual bar mitzvah celebration work out?
We were fortunate with the most glorious February weather both on Friday and Shabbat. Dressed in our best holiday attire, the Miller Family took some exquisite pictures Friday afternoon before the on-set of Shabbat. The rolling green Judean mountains were a perfect background for the joy on our faces as we waited to greet a memorable Shabbat.
Minyan during Coronavirus
Tuvia, in his first moments as a full fledged Jewish man, opened his bar-mitzvah Shabbat by leading a bweautiful Kabbalat Shabbat and Maariv service. Shabbat morning, after an extra joyous Rosh Chodesh Hallel Tfilla, Tuvia stepped up with poise and assurance and read all 3 Torahs(Mishpatim, Rosh Chodesh, Shkalim) like a pro. In unique Coronavirus fashion, half of the minyan consisted of Tuvia’s friends. They were a special part of the celebration, supporting the bar mitzvah boy on his big day, blessing him with warm brachot at the Shabbat meals and accompanying the bar mitzvah bachor as they marched around Adam all of Shabbat proud and euphoric.
The outdoor Kiddish with the Oro Shel Adam Kehila was a special part of the bar mitzvah Shabbat. Weather and Coronavirus restrictions permitting, we felt especially blessed that we could celebrate and share our simcha with close friends in our community of Olim.
It was a most memorable 28 hours, topped off by the fact that thank God no one became sick with “the virus” as a result of the celebration.
Rav Eli Tauber Bar Mitzvah Instruction
OSA: Who gave Tuvia his Bar Mitzvah instruction?
Tuvia had a wonderful bar mitzvah teacher, Rav Eli Tauber. While most of Tuvia’s preparation to read three different parashot(Mishpatim, Rosh Chodesh, Shkalim) from three different Torahs was done as a child in his Talmud Torah (yeshiva for elementary school kids), Rav Eli worked with Tuvia for over a month to perfect his reading and give him added confidence in preparation for his big day. Tuvia gained tremendously from his sessions with Rav Eli.
What are the differences between Bar Mitzvah in Israel vs. America?
Olim making a bar mitzvah in Israel should be ready for a different type of experience. It takes multiple, at times many years for newcomers to become well established in a community in Israel. Israelis are less community oriented and generally less outgoing. As a result, Olim should be prepared to have a smaller scale celebration than would have been done in the Diaspora. Marking the moment with family members and a few close friends is something to be expected. The more modest celebration does allow extra focus and joy on the mile-stone itself, with less focus on the guest lists, extravagant halls and fancy bar mitzvah gifts. Timing for a bar mitzvah celebration can also be a challenge. With no weekends beyond Shabbat, planning when during the week the bar mitzvah event will take place can be an issue. Finally, Israel has something that can never be replicated in other countries. Eretz Yisrael is filled with holy places and sites. Celebrating a bar mitzvah at the Kotel, in Hevron or at Rashb”i in Meron can be an extremely meaningful and inspiring way to bring a young man or woman into adulthood.