I'd hoped to get this post out earlier in the month (of Elul) but as it turns out, I'm right on time (the 26th, to be exact) to wish my son a Yomuledet Sameyach. In case you're not a Hebrew speaker, that means "Happy Birthday". If you are a Hebrew speaker but have never lived in Israel, you might be wondering why I typed "Yomuledet" instead of Yom Huledet. So I'll let you in on a little trick that'll make you sound more like a native Israeli than an immigrant. Leave the "h"- sound out of a word that's spelled with a "hey". So a Yom Huledet becomes a Yomuledet and a boy named "Yehuda" is called "Yooda". Our youngest child - and most Israeli-sounding - confirmed this fact early in our acculturation when he proudly proclaimed that his big brother was in Kitah "A" (Grade 5) which your average Hebrew speaking American would call Kitah Hey.
But let's get back to birthdays - and especially those celebrated in Israel. Little kids' birthday crowns are standard. Cake and balloons? Of course. But the cone-shaped sakiyot yomuledet (birthday baggies) filled with birthday treats and sold in Israeli supermarkets are among the cutest things I've ever seen. And I was delighted to discover that rather than gifts, Israeli kids receive brachot (blessings) from their classmates. The birthday boy sits at the front of the classroom and every child comes forward to bless him. Not with fame or fortune but with meaningful things like long life and success in his Torah studies. We're talking about 5, 6 and 7 year olds here - and they all know just what to do.
The last birthday that my Elul baby celebrated when we lived in Israel was his bar mitzvah. The festivities lasted a full two months - from his hanachat tefillin (putting on tefillin for the first time) at the Wall to the beautiful dinner for family and friends, some of whom traveled thousands of miles for the occasion. I can hardly believe that it's been eight years since then. As you turn 21, dear son, please accept your loving mother's brachot for everything your Israeli classmates would wish you - and then some.
Speaking of birthdays, we're about to celebrate the yomuledet of all yomuledets: Rosh HaShanah, the birthday of the planet we call home. I would love to describe how truly awesome the Yamim No'raim (High Holidays - literally, Days of Awe) are in Israel but the day is short, the task is great and this blogger is feeling a bit lazy (see Pirkei Avot, Ethics of the Fathers, 2:20). So I'll just present you with this year's edition of my annual Rosh HaShanah poem, a tradition that began in preparation for my first Rosh HaShanah back in the States. It was a somewhat bittersweet way to Remember Jerusalem at this special time of year. (For those new to this tradition of mine, some references may not be clear but I'll be happy to explain upon request.)
Rosh Hashanah 5771
We ponder again the year in review;
what was accomplished, what's still left to do.
Looking back, we can count all the ways we've been "blest" and assess how we've scored on G-d's many tests.
What have I learned in the year that has passed?
That no two people will take the same path.
Be it highway or foot bridge, a road lies ahead.
Walk yours with G-d, King Solomon said.
Our sacred laws, beloved traditions
see us through challenges and transitions.
From day to day, from year to year
our faith and our trust calm every fear.
The years come and go in the circle game.
Events ever-changing; the cycle, the same.
Like wood being shaped by the artisan's lathe
we marvel at eych ha'galgal mistoveyv.
Congratulations, dear Earth,
on 5771 years since your birth.
With what shall we bless you on your special day?
Global peace. Gentle weather. Prosperity...
Now the air's turning brisk; the foliage, bright.
Soon the table we'll set and the candles we'll light.
The challahs are baked; the honey dish glistens.
The shofar will blow; to its call we will listen.
Ripe pomegranates bursting with seeds
remind G-d of our merits, not our misdeeds.
The angels are ready to plead every case
to the Almighty King Whose judgment we'll face.
May He grant us good health and joy that is true,
contentment and nachas and simchas "by you".
Let this be the year that He takes our hands
and leads us back Home to our holy Land.
Now we are ready, the holiday's here.
May it be the start of a wonderful year.
As we don our finest, it is so nice to know
that for the New Year, we are all "good to go"!
May your every prayer be answered with revealed good and sweetness in 5771 and beyond - and Yomuledet Sameyach to you, whenever yours comes!
Sharon, Bill and (standing l to r) Berel, Simcha, Zevy, Shani and, the birthday boy, Yoel