My wife, Lisa, and I came up to Sharon, Massachusetts, during the summers to spend two weeks with our daughter DeDe, son-in-law Yaakov and our three grandsons, Nani, Itai and Uriel.
Sharon has a beautiful Jewish community just south of Boston.
Two years ago, we marveled at our oldest grandchild’s ability as a 5-year-old in beginning karate classes. We took him to class twice a week where he was in a “Little Dragon” group.
Then last summer, Nani attended ice hockey camp. Having played many years of amateur ice hockey, I was shepping nachas as I watched him zip around the ice with his teammates as they chased pucks around the ice like kittens following a flashlight beam.
But during this year’s visit, Lisa and I are beaming from a different kind of pride. Nani, 7, stood next to me our first morning there and davened Shacharit with me. With his children’s siddur, his musical voice danced through the Hebrew.
This moment stopped me in my tracks. I would stop my own davening just to hear his beautiful articulation of the words. I could tell he knew he was talking to Hashem, and that he was so happy.
In 1986, when Rabbi Shlomo Porter of Etz Chaim in Baltimore began a process with my wife and myself, I had no idea that over the years I’d be so taken by my grandson. Our daughters were part of our baal teshuva journey. Sometimes we were unsure of ourselves during that journey. But with the guidance of our rabbis, we are gratefully a shomer mitzvot family.
But to hear your grandson, who is getting ready to enter second grade at the Striar Hebrew Academy in Sharon, daven, well it was better than watching him score goals and do a karate move, even though I know how important play and exercise are for children.
What got to me the most in hearing Nani daven was the real, true understanding that our baal teshuva journey was not just for Lisa and myself. Nor would it end with my two wonderful daughters. They were the ones who were there when we started keeping kosher, Shabbos, learning, taharat hamishpacha and so much more, sometimes to the annoyance of other relatives who wondered what we were doing.
Instead, to hear Nani daven when we got to Sharon over a week ago, I understood that the next candle had really been kindled, that continuity was real and alive.
I can’t begin to thank our spiritual leaders, our teachers and the teachers of my children and now my grandchildren.
But it got even a little better.
Last Friday night at dinner, my son-in-law said Kiddush. Nani followed with his Kiddush. And then his little brother Itai, all of 3-years-old, stood up on his chair and said Kiddush as well. Of course, it took a few giggles and misplaced words.
Thank you, Hashem. These have been an incredible two weeks in Sharon.
By Phil Jacobs