In 2004, we stepped on to the plane to make Aliyah with our two children and our dreams for our future. We carried with us most of what we owned, including one particularly precious bundle – the baby in my stomach.
Through the years, we’ve been able to mark our Aliyah milestones with Amichai’s progress. His first birthday came a bit after our one year Aliyaversary, his entry into nursery school meant that we had been here for three years, and so on. And now, when our Aliyah bar mitzvah arrived in the summer, we knew that Amichai’s bar mitzvah wouldn’t be far behind.
While we didn’t know the ropes for buying tefillin with our first son, and we sort of knew what we were doing when number two had his bar mitzvah, we finally hit the mark with our Aliyah baby. On Friday, we created an entire tefillin day for Amichai and it was glorious.
First, we took him for a quick breakfast at Pat Bamelach. Then, we went to the home of the sofer, Rav Zvi Zolevsky, who lives in Neve Daniel. He spent half an hour with Amichai going over what is written on the tefillin and why, explaining how he makes the ink and discussing the whole process. It was an incredibly meaningful experience. Amichai (and I!) learned a great deal and got to fully understand what is in those boxes that the men in our lives wear for morning prayers each day.
We took the parchment ourselves from him and set out for step 2. (Funny side note: Rav Zvi puts the parchment into an old film canister for safe keeping when they are transported, and Amichai had no idea what the black container was for. Even when we explained to him what film used to look like and how you had to have it developed, he looked at us like we were martians.)
Next, we took Amichai to the store to buy his own tefillineet. This is the case the kids sling over their shoulder to protect their tefillin for its daily journey from home to school and beyond (in our kids’ case…way beyond!)
After Amichai selected his case, we drove down to Kiryat Arba to meet up with tefillin maker Rav Gershon Steinmetz. He showed us a fascinating video that explains the entire process of making tefillin and all of the different customs that have evolved in various communities over the millennia.
Then, he showed Amichai his actual tefillin and Josh had the honor of inserting the four rolls of parchment into the tefillin that Amichai will wear on his head and one into the container that he will wear on his arm.
It made for an incredibly moving and exciting day as Amichai prepares to take on the mitzvot at his bar mitzvah and to join his brothers and father (and generations before him) in this daily mitzvah. As we left the first stop, Rav Zvi’s wife said, “You know we get a lot of dads and sons coming to do this, but we almost never get a mom coming along. Way to go!” I was honored to be part of the process and to be there for this first step of Amichai’s journey towards this amazing milestone.
To be doing all of this in Eretz Yisrael gives me goosebumps.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve reached this milestone with the guy who was cradled in my belly for that big journey so many years ago.