They grow up so fast! Why I remember when…
Tomorrow morning, my son will stand before our family, friends, and the Jewish community. He will fulfill a 700-year-old rite of passage, as he declares himself a man in G-d’s eyes and the eyes of the Jewish community. He will take on the responsibility to be counted as one of the 10 adults needed for community prayer, lead prayer and study, and will be accountable for his actions before G-d and the Jewish community. In fact, Ariela and I will actually renounce our responsibility for such actions as part of the ceremony.
Rites-of-passage mean a lot for me and I have enjoyed ceremonies at every junction of my life. Some are fictionalized in A Gardener’s Tale. But as Winston Churchill said after the Battle of Britain: “This is not the end. Neither is it the beginning of the end, but it is the end of the beginning.”
Changing diapers, making egg-in-a-nest and nursing scraped knees are behind us. Discussions on the fairer sex, fashion, image, values, and politics, have replaced them and I have learned to embrace the change. But the responsibilities relinquished are replaced with the responsibilities of cultivating a young man who will be a kind and generous person, an activist, a philanthropist, a world-changer.
I have tried to be a nurturing father, a supportive husband, a fair boss, and an inspiring leader. My son has seen me succeed and fail. He has seen me address crowds as an author, rap my annual speech to students, celebrate my friends and students successes, and cry at their failures and losses.
Tomorrow, I will offer words of wisdom, hugs of love, and nods and thumbs up of support. Tomorrow, I will relinquish my responsibilities as a father, and take up my responsibilities as a friend and companion. In a world where so many young men are denied the positive role model of a father walking alongside them, where masculinity is ensconced in the unforgiving rule of law, the scavenger economy, and the uncompromising street, I have nothing to offer but myself and my example.
I can only hope to be worthy of the task ahead.
Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com/ and on Twitter (@alonshalevsf).