To my bar mitzvah.

I’m in awe of Torah reading… getting up close to it… having a physical connection with the parchment… It’s not something I had access to from behind the kind of barrier they called a mechitza where I grew up.

(I just realized this week I never even saw tefillin up close until now.)  

Watching you read, Emor’s words – even the super intense ones – flow so smoothly… It helps that your mother tongue is Hebrew and it also helps you spent months building a relationship with each syllable… repetitively… accurately… It’s so much nuance, specifics, details…  As an outsider, as someone who has not known this kind of connection to words on parchment up close, it seems like a relationship built on details… 

And it’s not just about the details of reading Torah correctly… In addition you have to relate to the words themselves, in this parsha of details… Many uncomfortable, many somewhat irrelevant. 

Sometimes details feel like a drag. What Kohanim can or cannot do. Reminding us what shabbat is. The punishment for blasphemy. 

Why does any of it matter at this moment? It’s just details.   

But I think details got me here, living in Israel. Details are what keep us feeling connected, even when we feel so far away. We were in Yad Vashem yesterday, surrounded by details… and the thing you were so taken by was the Magen David carved into a stolen Nazi blade. I bet you remember that for a long time. 

Details fuel our connection to the past, and present, and our expectations for what’s next. The smell of the etrog after peeling off that styrofoam. That specific line in the hagada  that me and my brothers laughed about every single seder night. The way I remember the chazan falling to his knees on Yom Kippur.

The details you choose to keep close will shape you. They will fuel you, they will make it easier to remember your core values when things get confusing or tough. 

When you were born, my first choice for naming you was a name that means ‘eyes open’… We went with the name you have now, which is kinda funny, right? But sometimes I think about that other name… the way you see the world, the way you soak in the details, your eyes are always open.

So while the parsha may seem intense, too easy to get lost in endless details that feel so disconnected from life today – it’s the details that get us here, keep us here, build the narrative, get us to the next step. The trick is knowing which details to keep an eye on, to keep close, to keep sacred. 

So while it is extremely clear according to Emor that I can’t partake in korban steak because I married an איש זר, for example – a detail I don’t love, but accept, since my ish zar makes great steak anyway – the lesson we can take from a parsha like Emor is… find the details that will get you to the next step. Keep those close. The right details for you shouldn’t drown you, they should drive you. 

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