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All in One Place: All of Our Speeches on the Occasion of Yishama Becoming a Bar Mitzvah

We had a great time this past weekend celebrating Yishama becoming a Bar Mitzvah. There were lots of words shared. Here are all of our speeches in one place:


Remember the Name: My Talk to Yishama on Becoming a Bar Mitzvah

It is rare that we take moments to ponder who we are and who we are becoming. It feels like a moment ago we were standing in Bais Abraham in St. Louis at Yishama’s bris explaining the meaning of his name. Notably this will be a different speech then the one given at your bris. I remember vividly,walking back from your Bris when Oma asked me,” Are there any Boys with this name?” I answered her telling her about the prophecy of Jeremiah yadda yadda yadda “He Shall Be Heard”. And my mother lovingly cut me off,”No, are there any boys with this name?”

So, beyond the the comment from my dear friend Aryeh Bernstein who emailed post bris saying“ Mad Props on the Nifal”, what is the meaning of your name?

  • On your Bar Mitzvah, I wanted to share some more reflections on why we gave you such a unique name?
  • Even from the start we had a sense that you would be a unique child.  Check!
  • We hoped that you that you would be a middle child. Check! Check! Thank you Emunah and Libi.
  • We wanted to ensure you would be heard. Your siblings look up to you. Check!
  • And somewhere in there your Mami and I thought that the world needed to hear your voice as well.

As we read in Jeremiah:

Thus said the Lord: עוֹד֮ יִשָּׁמַ֣ע- Again there shall be heard in this place, which you say is ruined, without man or beast—in the towns of Yehudah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man, without inhabitants, without beast—the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of bridegroom and bride, the voice of those who cry, “Give thanks to the Lord of Hosts, for the Lord is good, for God’s kindness is everlasting!” (Jeremiah 33:10-11)

Although the world might have been desolate, destroyed and ruined, Jeremiah had a vision for a future in which the voice of happiness will be heard. Thus we will hear the multivocality of ק֣וֹל שָׂשׂ֞וֹן וְק֣וֹל שִׂמְחָ֗ה. Yes, that makes me cry at every wedding. That will be the next installment of this talk. The vision of Jeremiah is meting out happiness middah k’neged middah– measure for measure our happiness filling the void of sadness, When we named you we had no idea how broken the world would become. We also had no idea of your immense capacity to fill that void

You are our little philosopher. Your capacity to reflect and commitment to improve is unrivaled. You are all about the grind on and off the court. There is no doubt to anyone who knows you that you will do great things in this world. You are profoundly committed to get the most out of every moment. You are mature way beyond your years. From an early age you knew that life was really about the experiences you would have along the path. You never want to waste a moment.

This reminds me of one of my favorite stories from the Talmud. We learn in Berachot:

It was taught in a baraita that Rabbi Yosei said: I was once walking along the road when I entered the ruins of an old, abandoned building among the ruins of Jerusalem in order to pray. I noticed that Elijah, of blessed memory, came and guarded the entrance for me and waited at the entrance until I finished my prayer. When I finished praying and exited the ruin, Elijah said to me: Greetings to you, my Rabbi. I answered him: Greetings to you, my Rabbi, my teacher. And Elijah said to me: My son, why did you enter this ruin? I said to him: In order to pray. And Elijah said to me: You should have prayed on the road. And I said to him: I was unable to pray along the road, because I was afraid that I might be interrupted by travelers and would be unable to focus. Elijah said to me: You should have recited the abbreviated prayer instituted for just such circumstances. Rabbi Yosei concluded: At that time, from that brief exchange,I learned from him, three things: I learned that one may not enter a ruin; and I learned that one need not enter a building to pray, but he may pray along the road; and I learned that one who prays along the road recites an abbreviated prayer so that he may maintain his focus. (Berachot 3a)

Yishama, your commitment to stay on the path and learn everything from every moment is inspirational. You make we want to be a better person. And the story in Berachot continues, “And after this introduction, Elijah said to me: What voice did you hear in that ruin? I responded: I heard a Heavenly voice, cooing like a dove” (Berachot 3a)  The dove was saying ” And this is why we cannot have nice things” ( this translation/interpretation is my own).

Image result for dove ruins jerusalem

Like Rabbi Yosei, when we allow ourselves to stop along life’s path to reflect we realize that the diversion itself was the journey.
The tangent was the actual lesson. We also realize that beyond the lesson is another deeper lesson. If we allow time to have sacred moments, we can even hear the voice of hope and happiness in a place that would otherwise seem ruined. Like Rabbi Yosei, we can and must learn from everything along the way.

With the meaning of your name in my heart and the image of Rabbi Yosei on the journey in my mind I wanted to share part of C. P. Cavafy’s Poem, Ithaka, as a blessing for you:

Hope your road is a long one.
May there be many summer mornings when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you enter harbors you’re seeing for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to learn and go on learning from their scholars.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Yishama, along your journey, I hope that you stop in many places. If you are open to it, even in places of desolation you will hear the voice of the dove bringing peace and the voices of joy filling the void of sadness. Echoing your Dvar Torah, which you shared so beautifully, our blessing to you is not just that you be open to hearing those voices, but also to step into your role of being that voice. We feel so blessed to have you in our lives. Your striving to live an inspired life is itself inspirational. Speak truth to power, bring joy to those who need it, and keep on inspiring people. In doing so, Yishama- you will be heard.

We are excited for the journey ahead. We give thanks at this moment to hearing your emergent voice and are confident that you will fulfill the vision of your name. Your voice will bring joy to our broken world. Yishama, in thinking about the person you are and your name, its seems only fitting to close by quoting, Fort Minor.

This is ten percent luck
Twenty percent skill
Fifteen percent concentrated power of will
Five percent pleasure
Fifty percent pain
And a hundred percent reason to remember the name

Mazel Tov Yishama Frydman Orlow, Yishama ben HaRav Avram v HaHazan Adina Devorah. Remember the name.

Essential Wisdom of Yishama Frydman Orlow: Adina’s Speech for Yishama’s Bar Mitzvah

Adina’s speech to Yishama on becoming a Bar Mitzvah:

Yishama, these are some words that capture your essence sprinkled in with sayings from Pirke Avot, because I know how much you love a good inspirational quote.

Perseverance and Grit
I need only say one word, basketball, and I think everyone in this room knows what I mean. What they don’t know is that in addition to the hours you spend on the court, you wake up most days at 6:30am to do your workout routine, spend your lunch and recess hours doing drills, and even your down time is watching players you admire and studying their best moves on you tube. I love that after games you seek out the referees to ask if there is anything you can improve, and they look as stunned as you do right now. Whether you are headed to the NBA or to become a renowned physicist, this virtue of perseverance will take you all the way! , לְפוּם צַעֲרָא אַגְרָא: Ben He He said: According to the labor is the reward.

Shama, you are someone who deeply cares and emotes in ways that people many years your senior cannot match. As you grow up to be a young man, embrace this superpower and do not shy away from expressing your feelings. Remember that real men cry. It is this empathy and ability to be vulnerable that will make your relationships real and deep.

Friday nights in our house, aside from the usual bewitching that takes place at Shabbat dinner because everyone is exhausted from the week, Mami and Aba wanting it to be the perfect family dinner, and the four of you being as goofy as possible. These are some of my favorite family memories. Whether it is you and your brother doing some impression of a famous singer, actor, or made up character, or you simply chasing Libi under the table screaming, catch me if you can! Or doing your belly and but-cheeks high five, you keep me laughing. Never lose that ability to keep things light – a trait you no doubt learned from your father, not me.

Every night one of us puts you to bed, because at an early age you realized that these few minutes were time for you to have our undivided attention. And every night you ask me “so, how was your day mom” followed by “what did you do today” I can never get away with fine or “had a few meetings” because I know that your follow up question will be “but what did you DO today” because you are one of these rare creatures who understands and values the preciousness of life and the great responsibility we have to seize every moment. You make me a better person.

But it isn’t only that, Shama, there have been numerous occasions where you literally took my breath away with the deep reflections you shared. Like the time I was 9 months pregnant and driving your 3-4 year old self to school and and you asked me, “Do mommy’s ever die when they have babies?” or on our weekly walks to shul, when you share “Deep thoughts by Shama Orlow” And say things like, “You know, he is a really nice kid. He has matured a lot over the years.” Or “you mean we are paying double for our education? Once through our taxes and another through our tuition”  You have always been our wise old man in a little boys body (with a scrabble dictionary vocabulary to boot).

Shama, you always stand up for what you believe in. Whether in school, on the court or at home your character takes the front seat. It is not lost on us that you wear your kippah on the court with unbridled pride, no matter who is playing . וּבְמָקוֹם שֶׁאֵין אֲנָשִׁים, הִשְׁתַּדֵּל לִהְיוֹת אִישׁ In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.
You make us so incredibly proud – not only today but every day in all the small moments when your true character shines through. Anyone who knows you knows that you are destined for greatness but more importantly that you will inspire others to greatness.

As we spend many a nightly conversation pondering the state of our country, world and humankind I am lifted up thinking that you and your brother and sisters will be agents of change in fixing all that is broken and healing all who are suffering.

As you know, Mami and Aba have devoted themselves to serving the Jewish community professionally and to being involved in our local community through the shul and the Hevra Kadisha. So, when we are home late from a meeting, or travelling for days at a time and missing tucking you in at night, know that we are doing our small part in fixing this broken world so that we leave it a little better than we found it.

Whether you choose to work in the for profit sector and make a lot of money to become a baal tzedakah or your choose work in the nonprofit sector giving back through your daily work, remember that the day is short and the work great. הַיּוֹם קָצָר וְהַמְּלָאכָה מְרֻבָּה and that It is not your duty to finish the work, but neither are you at liberty to neglect it; לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה: And one final saying as I leave you with some parting wisdom,  הוּא הָיָה אוֹמֵר, אִם אֵין אֲנִי לִי, מִי לִי. וּכְשֶׁאֲנִי לְעַצְמִי, מָה אֲנִי. וְאִם לֹא עַכְשָׁיו, אֵימָתָי: He [also] used to say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? But if I am for my own self [only], what am I? And if not now, when?
Shama, be intentional every minute about the person you want to be, surround yourself with people to care for and that care for you, and continue to live each day to the fullest, seizing every moment as if it were the last.

Yadid, Emunah, and Libi

We love you so much and too much and we hope that looking around you see all of the people that are here who love you and together with Mami and Aba have helped us raise 4 metsches. Remember always that no matter what, you have one another and you have to be there for each other. You are each a unique creation that was put on this earth for a reason and one of those is to take care of each other and of your parents in their old age (but not for many years to come – you hear that honey!)


Thank you for being my bar plugta, my soul mate, for ever challenging me to be the best version of myself and being my co-pilot on this life journey. Together we strive to be the best parents we can be – each in our own unique ways. As you often say to me, “we have some pretty awesome kids” as if to say, “we didn’t mess them up too badly”. Don’t worry there is still time.
“Honey, I love you so much”

Oma, Abuelo and Abuela

Thank you for schepping naches with us and for giving us all of the tools we needed to get to this moment. I know that PJ is here with us to smiling with his cockeye grin from ear to ear as are your great grandparents who could not physically be here today.

To our family and friends
We feel so blessed to be a part of this community. We could not have dreamed of a better place to be raising our children together with you. From the first time we came 11 years ago to “Check out the community” and moved in with Rabbi Chaim and Suzie and their seven kids for a week, we knew this was the place for us. Today, Yishama and his squad wander the streets of White Plains and dominate the Highlands court and couldn’t be happier. To so many loving friends who came today representing different parts of our lives we love you all and look forward to continuing to share many simchas together in the coming years.

Adina, I am so honored to call you my Bar Plugta, accountability buddy, and the love of my life. Much love.

Image may contain: Avi Orlow and Adina Frydman, people smiling, people standing and outdoor

Our Deepest Fear: Emunah’s Speech for Yishama’s Bar Mitzvah

Emunah’s Speech that she read for her Yishama’s Bar Mitvah:

Shabbat Shalom. Yishama , I wanted to share with you a poem by Marianne Williamson:

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Yishama, while I might not have needed your help to feel brilliant, gorgeous, talented, or fabulous, sometimes I do feel inadequate. Like my Aba I have some challenges with reading. Seeing you play basketball or run cross country with people much bigger than you, I see that you never shrink, slow down, or play small. You always give it your all. It was amazing seeing you take down Jordan Tucker– Who was literally twice your size.

Seeing your work ethic inspires me to do the same. Be that reading or running, you are a role model of rigor and the benefits of having a regiment. Mazel Tov on becoming a Bar Mitzvah today. I am so proud of having you as my brother, what you have done, who you are, and the impact you will have on the world. Thank you for always being there to encourage me. You inspire me to be better. You give all of us permission to shine. Thank you.

I am so proud of my children.

Shama Llama: Yadid’s Poem for Yishama’s Bar Mitzvah

Yadid’s Poem that he delivered on the occasion of Yishama’s Becoming a Bar Mitzvah

Shama Llama
First the OG, then the Remix
You were born in 2006
Next to the arch, Saint Louis
Suddenly, New York, a city of bricks

once you were a fetus
Now you are a genius
Sleepless that’s your weakness
Allergic to tree nuts

Sudden, you grew up
Sprouting like a tulip
Your hair blew up
Tying your shoe up
Sure not to screw up
Shots you threw up
Next one queued up
Fancy moves brewed up
Opponents you chewed up
Rising, bro you up
Being a proud Jew, yup
Deaf to hate spewed up
Never feeling used up
Cause when you shoot up
Haters know they screwed up
Bro you still goof up
But when you cued up
You ready to swoop up
Never a crude shlump
Never stop, bro speed up

Not a preteen
now thirteen
A living meme
To fast, unseen
You use gasoline?
Handles supreme

I aspire to be you, Shama
Never causing drama
A leader, like Obama
Handles a diorama
A creator, like Brahma
Wild hair, like a llama
Acting like your in nirvana
I’m a panda, your an iguana

I am so proud of my children.

Yadid’s Speech for Yishama’s Bar Mitzvah

Yadid’s Speech to his brother on the occasion of Yishama becoming a Bar Mitzvah:

Hi everyone, thanks for joining my family in the celebration of my brother’s Bar Mitzvah. Many, if not most of the people in this room are aware that my brother is a baller, but he wasn’t always that way. In fact, he used to be trash at ball. But, as time progressed, he realized that basketball was his passion. This realization hit him over the Winter, so he was unable to work on his shooting outside. Though he hit this roadblock, he wouldn’t let it get in his way. So every day for around half a year he took take a basketball to the basement and practiced and expanded his dribbling skills. After this phase he proceeded to go to Highlands, the public basketball courts near our house in order to play basketball with other people, working on his skills. He still goes to those court to this day, from when he gets home to sundown in order to get better.

The great sage of Ancient China, Master Shifu once said  “If you only do what you can do, you’ll never be more than you are.” This seemed to be the concept my brother was following. Shama, I know that as the older brother I’m supposed to set an example for you, but for me the tables are turned. I strive to have the same persistence and passion that you have, to be as dedicated as you have been. Because of your passion, our squad now goes to play basketball almost every week, abba fixed his shoulder up and exercises almost every day now,  you put your mind to something, and it changed everyone around you.

I am so proud of my children.

Merry Shavuot?

Recently a non Jewish colleague wished me a happy holiday and than surprised me with an apology. She was worried that it might not be appropriate to wish someone a happy Shavuot. Is Shavuot a joyous or sad holiday? Be it a harvest festival or the celebration of the revelation of the Torah at Sinai, Shavuot is clearly a happy holiday. But her apology did leave me thinking. Most of calendar a is filled with they-tried-to-kill-us-and-failed-so-lets-eat holidays.  Maybe for Jews our surviving the never ending cycle of violence is the  definition of a happy holiday. So is Shavuot a merry holiday? 

This question gets spelled out graphically in the Gemara in Shabbat. There we learn:

“And they stood under the mount” ( Exodus 19:17)  Rabbi Avdimi ben Hama ben Hasa said: This [literal reading ‘under’] teaches that the Holy One, blessed be God, overturned the mountain upon them like an [inverted] cask, and said to them,’If you accept the Torah, all is well; if not, there shall be your burial.’ Rabbi Aha ben Jacob observed: This furnishes a strong protest against the Torah [It provides a legitimate excuse for non-observance, since it was forcibly imposed in the first place.] Said Raba, Yet even so, they re-accepted it in the days of Ahashverosh [the King from the Purim story in the book of Esther] , for it is written, “[the Jews] confirmed, and took upon them [etc.]”( Esther 9:27) [i.e.,] they confirmed what they had accepted long before. ( Shabbat 88a)

While the Gemara reframes the acceptance of the additional commandments instituted around the holiday of Purim to be an acceptance of the entirety of the Torah, it starts by framing Shavuot as another violent holiday. In this context Shavuot is not unique in terms of it being a celebration of our near brush with extinction, it is unique that the the assailant here is God God’s self. Is why we get rewarded by eating cheesecake?

Image result for cheesecake MERRY SHAVUOT. Stay safe and have a joyous holiday.

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