Featured image of post Don't Waste Time Talking With The Cow

Don't Waste Time Talking With The Cow

A speech I gave at my son's bar mitzva. Originally delivered August 6th, 2023

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Family and friends thank you for joining us on this auspicious occasion! You’re being here has really enhanced our simcha. A special thanks to the Rebbe Shlita who has seen the potential in Eliyahu, and has become such a positive influence in his life and ours!

Eliyahu it is a great honor for me to stand here and address you as you take your journey into manhood. Your mother and I are so proud of the strides you’ve made to get here and we know you’ll continue to make us proud as you blossom into a true man of character and a תלמיד חכם. Or, as Rabbi Zaks once put it, you have a bright future ahead of you as a תלמיד חכם, but maybe not as a professional soccer player!

When you were called to the Torah yesterday, I was זוכה to say the blessing ברוך שפטרני מעונשו שלזה “blessed is he who has exempted me from the punishment coming to this boy”.
So actually, besides being a birthday for you, this is also a retirement party for me. Until now you were the responsibility on you mother and me. Now you’re on your own, kid! As such, we feel it’s only right to send you off with some thoughts ;)

Tonight I would like to discuss three things with you:

  1. יראת שמיים
  2. Being a man
  3. Not wasting time talking with the cow

יראת שמיים

  1. Yesterday, you read beautifully

    And now what does Hashem your G-d ask from you, but to fear Hashem your G-d, to walk in all of His ways and to love him and serve him with all your heart and soul?

  2. From here are sages have taught, all comes from Heaven except for fear of Heaven.
  3. Eliyahu, you have a lot of potential. But you intelligence. Your strength. Your innate middos - are gifts from the באשעפר!
  4. It is the moral decisions you make, the values you live by, and your יראת שמיים

Be a man

  1. Becoming a man means many things,
    1. taking responsibility for yourself and the כלל
    2. being decisive
    3. and not making excuses
  2. But there’s another aspect of being a man I would like to focus on today.
  3. When Dovid Hamelech passed the kingship on to his son Shlomo, which are חז״ל tell us was also on his bar mitzva, he told him: וחזקת והיית לאיש.
  4. Ralbag (Gershonides) - וחזקת והיית לאיש. רוצה לומר שלא תהיינה פעולותיך פעולות צעיר שנים ונער אבל תהיינה פעולות איש גדול וזה אמנם יהיה עם ההתישבות עצה:

    Your deeds should not be like though of an young, inexperienced lad, but they should be like the deeds of a great man and this will be done with COUNSEL.

    1. Don’t be that guy who is to “manly” to ask directions - being a man means getting help when you need it and seeking good counsel
    2. Your mother and I hope you’ll count us among your good counsellors

Don’t waste time talking with the cow

When Jews in Chernigov needed a new Rabbi, they turned to their spiritual leader, the Tzemach Tzedek, the 3rd Rebbe of Lubavitch, to find the a proper candidate. He sent them his prized students, Rabbi Dovid Tzvi Chen, a great scholar, known for his brilliance as well as piety, to serve in the new position. You can image his surprise when he got complaints that the new rabbi was “too lenient”. The Tzemech Tzedek determined to get to the bottom of this the next time his student came to visit him.

And so it was, that the next time Rav Chen went to visit his Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek asked him, ‘what’s the deal with this lenient rulings?’

Rav Chen’s response was as follows:

When I return my soul to my Maker, I fully expect to have to give account for each one of my rulings.

Now imagine I’m sitting in my office, and the village butcher comes to me with a cow that he has a שאלה about. As I inspect the cow, I quickly realize that according to the ש"ך’s opinion this cow is undoubtedly kosher, but according to the ט"ז’s opinion, there may be an issue. And now it is up to me to decide.

If I rule with leniency, I can full expect that, when I’m called before the heavenly court, the ט"ז will be there waiting for me to account for ruling against his opinion. I will reply that the ש"ך rules leniently on the matter - and I suspect a debate might ensue. Perhaps I’ll emerge victorious, perhaps I won’t - but either way - I’ll have spent an hour or so talking in learning with the ש"ך and the ט"ז! What could be better than that? I’ve already כאפט א שטייקל גן עדן!

If I rule stringently, I fully expect that the cow will be up there waiting for me to answer why it was deprived of the זכות of adorning a שבת table and being consumed by a Yid! Perhaps I’ll be vindicated, perhaps the cow is right! But oy gevalt if I’m going to spend an hour of my time - arguing with a cow!

Eliyahu, life is too short to waste time רעדן מיט א קו! Find a good חבורה! Find friends and mentors that bring out the best in you! Pay no mind to the critics and the naysayers! Especially, pay no mind, to that naysayer, that lives in your heart. Don’t feed the trolls!

Eliyahu, your mother and I are so proud of the man your becoming, and we know you have what it takes to וואקס א תלמיד חכם and to achieve great things.


Here is a video (please excuse the audio quality - it was taken from someones cell phone) of the speech.

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