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Sharing Some Nachas

Friday, 21 February, 2014 - 12:19 pm

A Jewish man finally wins the US presidential election. At the inauguration ceremony his mother is seated next to the Vice President. During the swearing-in she turns to the Vice President and says “you see that man with his hand on the bible? His brother is a doctor.”

Nachas is a Yiddish (originally from Hebrew) word used to describe the joy and pleasure parents (or teachers, family etc.) derive from the positive growth and development of their child. Jews wish each other “Yiddishe Nachas” wherein the joy and pleasure is derived from the positive growth and development of their child not only as a mensch, but also as a committed Jew. Chassidim wish each other “Chassidishe Nachas” wherein the joy and pleasure is derived from the positive growth and development of their child not only as a mensch and a committed Jew, but also as one who follows in the ways and customs practiced in the home and community.

There is a cute explanation as to why we wish Yiddishe Nachas to the parents of a Jewish child. In the Torah’s list of the tribal leaders descended from Esav (Esau) there a man named Nachas. So the idea is that Esav can also have Nachas, but what we want for our children is Yiddishe Nachas.

“Esav’s Nachas” comes from worldly accomplishment, academic achievement, or material success. No matter how Jewish the accent is, “My son the doctor” is still Esav’s Nachas.” Yiddishe Nachas is seeing your child’s Jewishness thrive. When a child delights in Torah study or Mitzvah performance, that is Yiddishe Nachas. When a child enjoys going to shul as much or more than to the game, that is Yiddishe Nachas. When a child demonstrates a commitment to a life of Judaism in the face of everything in this world that is competing for his or her attention, that is Yiddishe Nachas.

A milestone in Jewish life is an opportunity to reflect on Yiddishe Nachas. Malkie and I are very grateful to Hashem for the Nachas that we derive from our children. As our son, Sholom approaches his Bar Mitzvah this gratitude becomes very sharply focused and intensified. Since training is a vital element in the development of a child, it is the custom of many Jewish communities that a boy begins to train or practice laying Tefillin two months before his Bar Mitzvah. In Chabad custom this is accompanied by a L’chaim and small celebration during which the boy recites a portion of the Chassidic discourse about Tefillin, which he will recite at his Bar Mitzvah in its entirety.

For Sholom this moment is fast approaching. His Tefillin are on their way from the Sofer (scribe). This week we went downtown to Meyer the Hatter and bought Sholom his first black hat, which will soon become a permanent part of his attire. We would love to share this milestone with our community. We will be celebrating this pre-Bar Mitzvah milestone on Sunday, March 2 at the Sunday morning Minyan, which begins at 8 AM. Following the Minyan, during the monthly Breakfast with Maimonides, we will drink a L’chaim as Sholom shares a part of the Ma’amer, (above-mentioned Chassidic discourse). Please let us know if you will be joining us. While we are at it, save the date for the Bar Mitzvah, which will be on Sunday evening May 4.

Wishing you Yiddishe Nachas from your families and a very good Shabbos.
Rabbi Mendel Rivkin

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