This past week, I witnessed an almost certain miracle. My one and a half year old son has never been willing to wear a Kippah (yarmulke) during religious services or even for thirty seconds during the blessing over the wine. Sometimes people at shul point it out to me, as if I didn’t realize. But I understand their concern and I always smile and reply, “I’d be more than happy to put the Kippah on, but you’re going to have to lend me a stapler.” While there is nothing funny about stapling a Kippah onto a little boy’s head, if you have a one-year-old child, I know you can appreciate the sentiment.
My father, just as his father before him, has a saying that he applies to different situations, “Don’t worry Nolan, he’ll wear a Kippah by the time he is Bar-Mitzvah’ed.” Eleven more years of this is as reassuring to me as the stapler.
As somebody who is studying to be a Rabbi, sometimes his rejection of the Kippah has felt almost personal. Although, I’m absolutely sure he doesn’t intend it to be that way. My wife and I have bought him all different kinds and sizes—No help. “He’s just a toddler and it’s just a phase,” I used to hope.
Then last Saturday night before Havdalah, he reached out and grabbed a Dodgers’ Kippah and said, “MINE.” And with that declaration, he put it on his head and smiled. We tried not to make a big deal out of it and I quickly lit the candle and said Havdalah. The Kippah remained on his head the whole time.
The entirety of covenant doesn’t happen all at once. Although his circumcision on his eighth day of life marked his entrance into the Covenant between G-d and His Jewish People, my son now must accept all of the responsibilities that come with that Covenant—and that come with all of our family’s traditions.
Next week we will read in the Haggadah at the Pesach Seder, “In each generation, each individual is required to view himself or herself as if he or she is the one who left Egypt.” That means that as much as we all talk about our Covenant as the Jewish People, there is still an individual component for each one of us. There is a responsibility that each one of us has to maintain our part of the bond to G-d and to Jews all across the world.
Sometimes personal responsibility is far more daunting a task than collective liability. One can shrug off the collective duty figuring that somebody else will take care of it. That is not what Pesach teaches.
Pesach teaches that while we are all a part of this miraculous story of freedom, we all still carry personal responsibility to maintain that freedom for ourselves and for others. And that is what my son teaches. I witnessed his first step to claim his personal stake in the oldest covenant known in the world. His little hand placing that big Kippah on his little head was an affirmation of Torah and the Jewish People… At least until next week. I’ll keep you posted. Chag Kasher V’Sameach—Happy Passover!