The following is the speech I gave at my son’s Bar Mitzvah on June 23, 2019. It was a party that we almost cancelled around a dozen times prior to the event due to the difficulties surrounding his health and treatment. We went through with it, though, and it was the best decision.
Thank you everyone who has travelled far and wide to come join us at this amazing celebration. You know, when we first sent out Binny’s invitations, a lot of people were confused by the logo. Some people wanted to know if Binny was into Whales. Maybe he liked to fish. Who knows. And if you did recognize it as the Vineyard Vines logo, you might have thought that it was just about the clothes. “Here’s a logo of a company that Binny likes. Cute!”
But there’s actually a lot more to it, because while you might have recognized the logo, it’s possible that you didn’t know the Vineyard Vines slogan: Every Day Should Feel This Good. As a Bar Mitzvah theme, I can’t think of a better line. This day, this celebration, this feeling of being surrounded by friends and family? Every day should be this good. Every day should feel like this.
Unfortunately, though, we know that’s not possible. There are wonderful days like today, and there are hard days – days that we don’t feel so good. Days that are dark. This past weekend, I spoke about Binny’s name. Not many people know this, but Binny was born during an extremely difficult time for our family. I couldn’t imagine giving birth at that time. Couldn’t imagine being happy and celebrating this new child. But when Binny was born, he instantly brought light and joy to our family. He gave us strength. And so, when we named him, we chose those two attributes – the strength in the name Binyamin (“son of my strength”), the joy in the name Simcha (“happiness”). Because that was really who he was.
And Binny, that is also your gift. Look around this room at the people who are here – the people who crashed, the people who fought to celebrate with you. I joked that we should have just posted your invitation on telephone poles around the city because so many people wanted to be here with you. You touch people in a way I have never seen another child affect others. I hear it constantly. You connect with kids, adults, anyone really. It’s a gift.
But I have to tell you something. While your name reflected the strength and happiness you brought us in a very dark time, your name recently took on a different meaning for us. True, during difficult times, you need strength. You need to find happiness. But sometimes you also need strength to appreciate and celebrate happiness. Sometimes you need a lot of strength just to have a celebration. I’m not just talking about the strength to label 250 seating cards and design shirts and shlep boxes. I’m talking about the strength to decide to celebrate even when you sometimes don’t want to. I’m talking about the strength to be happy when it sometimes is hard. I’m talking about the strength that’s inside you, Binny. The strength we see reflected in everything you do: to be happy, to be positive, to fight for a “simcha” even when it’s hard.
Maybe that’s the message of the Torah portion we just read. God tells Moshe to tell Aharon to light the menorah so that it should bring light. But then things turn bad. The Jews complain. Moshe is frustrated. Miriam speaks Lashon Hara. It goes from lighting the menorah to burning down the camp. Literally. Maybe the reason the portion starts with light is because thats what God wants us to remember first. Light the fire – keep the glow of light. There’s going to be darkness; that’s inevitable. Every day will not be so good. People will complain and whine. People will be bad. But light the menorah. Keep that in your heart.
You have powerful role models around you Binny that remind you of this. Your family. Your incredible siblings. Your grandparents. Our community – particularly my friends who walked into our home a few weeks ago and said “You are making this Bar Mitzvah, and we are going to help you.” And then did exactly that. Your friends at Chai Lifeline – Southeast and Mid Atlantic – who fight for happiness as part of their job descriptions. But you – you are a role model for many and I am so honored to be your Ema.
May the joy we feel in this room, right now, carry us always. May it be a reminder not that every day should feel this good, but that every day CAN feel this good if we remember to embrace the celebrations wherever and whenever we can, remembering to keep the light lit before us in all we do.
I am so proud of you, every day. I am so grateful that your strength, and your joy are part of my every day. And I pray that we always find the strength for the simchas that are everywhere.
I love you, Binny.
If you would like to make a donation to Binny’s Team Lifeline run, in honor of his Bar Mitzvah, or just in general, click here.
(If you want to see “The Greatest Bar Mitzvah Video (of all time),” click here.)