To all my friends, family, and readers,
The subject of whether or not to celebrate birthdays, has been a “hot topic” in the Jewish world for ages. The first person in the Torah reported to celebrate his birthday, was Pharaoh, who did so with a cake and candles (see commentaries there). Believe it or not! Thus, halachically, the question has always remained – is it a Jewish custom, or one of idolaters?
Many of our great sages have stood up and proclaimed the latter, adding the seemingly morbid fact that one is celebrating a day closer to death. Yet many of our rabbis, have stated the exact opposite. The Ben Ish Chai, Rabbi Yosef Chaim of Baghdad zt”l, instituted a special prayer of thanks to be said on a birthday. The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt”l, wrote many customs that one should do on their birthday. Amongst them, giving charity, accepting a new mitzvah, saying the special chapter of Psalms corresponding to that year, and last but not least, my favorite – giving blessings to friends and family. The Rebbe taught that on this day, one has the power to bless, and therefore, one must use it.
Today is my Hebrew birthday. The Talmud in Berachot, teaches us that “the blessing of an ignoramus should not be light in your eyes” – light from the word small, unimportant – for we see many great people who were blessed by those of much lower stature than them, and the blessings came true. I ask the same…I will bless, but I hope that my blessing not be light in your eyes.
As Jews, we have the mission, to make the world a better place, one of morality and belief in G-d. We do this in three ways, the same things we normally bless each other with. “May you grow to Torah, Chuppah, and Maasim Tovim – Torah, Marriage, and Good Deeds”.
May you grow – Amen, may you always grow. Whenever we used to reach the words in the Talmud “and the Rabbis learned”, one of my Rabbis would always say “they learned, and thats why they became rabbis”. We must set our goals high, and always strive to reach them. Always. And I bless you that yours always shall come into being.
Torah – The study of Torah is what differentiates us from the rest of the world. We have the word of G-d, the only book ever written by Him. As His People, we must learn it, and live by it. I give you a blessing, that the Torah, shall always be sweet in your mouth, and you will merit to always live by its guiding light, and stay true to it, as did all our forefathers, even in the face of the most terrible oppression.
Chuppah – The Talmud in Sotah, teaches that forty years before a person is born, a bat kol, a Heavenly voice, comes out from Heaven and proclaims “So-and-so will marry so-and-so”. Every one of us has a special soul mate, one who will help us and guide us throughout life, both the good and not so good times. Someone to laugh with, and someone to cry with. Most importantly, someone to bring us to the highest level of serving G-d – marriage. Woe to those who have made this level of holiness, one that is the distraction to serving G-d. I bless each and every one of you, with my most heartfelt blessing – that at the right time, every single one of us shall find the right one, and build a bayit ne’eman b’Yisrael – a loyal house amongst Israel. And to those who already have merited to find the one – to continue in the path of peace and holiness, and bring many future generations, of upright and G-d fearing Jews.
Maasim Tovim – Our Rabbis have told us “great is learning that brings to action”. We learn, not just to know, but to do. We show G-d how much we love Him, not by being “good Jews at heart”, but by living day to day, as a holy and exalted people. This is what caused our ancestors to win over any obstacle in their path – the actions that could never be extinguished. I give everyone a blessing, that by rededicating ourselves to the Torah, to our G-d, and to our People, we will make this world a better place, and our lives will be filled with true joy and happiness.
I apologize to everyone who I haven’t been able to keep in touch with. I really would love to hear from you all, and I hope we can have an amazing and happy new year together!
Thank you so much for being there for me, and I hope to see you come visit me in Jerusalem, with Mashiach, by the time my English birthday rolls around, Amen!