By Phyllis J. Lubin
Almost as soon as he got off the coach bus on Monday afternoon last week, after he gave me a big hug, my youngest son looked at me and asked with a big smile on his face, “I stay home for Shabbos?”
“Of course you are home this Shabbos, silly!”
Yussie just returned from Camp Mesorah last Monday, where he was away for the past four weeks. He enjoyed every day that he was away, but, as they say, there’s no place like home.
“What time is Shabbos?”
I was frightened that our young man would somehow change in camp—that I wouldn’t recognize this “grown-up, independent” Yosef Binyamin who would come off the bus. But he was back to his old questions. We are taught to spend our week preparing for Shabbos, and Yosef truly lives this rule every week!
“Yuss, it’s only Monday! Tomorrow you are going on an overnight with Avnet Woodmere. You will come home Wednesday. Thursday and Friday you will have camp, and Friday night will be Shabbos. And Shabbos morning we will celebrate your bar mitzvah!” We had been preparing Yussie for this week the whole summer! But how would it actually play out? A total unknown.
“Yussie is coming home from Mesorah on Monday and immediately rejoining Avnet early Tuesday morning? Is this going to actually work?” was a question that came from everyone.
As I write this, it is Monday, precisely one week after Yussie’s return from Camp Mesorah, and I am happy to report that everything worked out beautifully! Yussie loved his Camp Mesorah experience, and jumped right into the festivities at Club Getaway with his Avnet Woodmere friends the day after his return.
Shabbos was truly memorable. Typically, Yussie and Lenny are home by 8:00 p.m. when the davening is at 7:00 p.m. This week was different. As we were waiting for the men’s return from shul Friday night, I walked to the corner to see if they were on the horizon and saw a shul member returning home at about 8:05.
“The fact that I see you coming home is encouraging—my crew can’t be too far behind!” I remarked.
“No, they will be a while. Yussie is making sure to shake everyone’s hand to wish them a good Shabbos!”
This is the essence of Yosef Binyamin. He is a regular politician that must greet his crowd! He makes sure to give everyone a big handshake (and yes, oftentimes a hug). And on this special Shabbos, Yussie was already collecting congratulatory words on Friday night.
Our Friday-night meal was tasty and, more importantly, the presence of the family was heartwarming. Shabbos morning, the house was abuzz. Yosef looked handsome in his new bar mitzvah suit, and all his siblings were decked out in beautiful ensembles. My folks, in-laws, and Naftali and Nina were all in town for Shabbos, so we were all on hand to see our young man before he left for shul. He looked so grown-up and handsome in his suit!
Rochel and Lea made sure that the baskets of candy bags were transported to shul. We had two baskets prepared for the women and another for the men. We had to make sure we had enough to shower Yussie in sweet treats after he read his berachah over the Torah. But Yussie had been away for an entire month! With all the rush to send him off for his overnight Tuesday, unpacking Wednesday, and last-minute Shabbos preparations Thursday night, somehow we did not re-practice for his aliyah at all that week. But he had his first aliyah on his actual Hebrew birthday Monday morning at Camp Mesorah, and another aliyah at Avnet Woodmere on Thursday, so we hoped he was duly prepared. But would he get nervous? Would he have stage fright?
The Lubin/Davidson contingency was in shul bright and early. The females of our group all had seats in the two front rows, with a good view of the bima. The excitement was building. Yosef was the junior chazzan (as he is most Shabbos mornings), and we were able to hear his sweet voice reciting the Adon Olam loud and clear. As the rest of the women slowly filled our section, I was so happy to see all of our Chabad friends and those that had come from afar to celebrate with our family. There was a special warmth felt in the shul—everyone anticipating Yussie’s special day!
When the Ark of the Torah was opened by my eldest son, Naftali, and I saw his proud smiling face, tears came to my eyes. This was really happening and we were all here to witness this great milestone! The kohein’s aliyah came and went, and now was time for Levi. My proud dad walked on his own two feet (sans walker) to get his aliyah. My father-in-law followed, along with the other aliyos, until Rabbi Ross announced the traditional “Ya’amod ha’bachur ha’bar mitzvah, Yosef Binyamin ben Leib Mordechai, chazak!” in the loudest, strongest, most mellifluous voice I have ever heard!
And there stood our Yosef Binyamin Lubin, with his infectious smile, wrapped in a tallis, walking proudly to the bima for his aliyah! The entire shul was silent in anticipation of Yussie’s moment in the sun. Rabbi Ross pointed out the place in the Torah, and Yussie kissed the Torah with his tallis and recited his berachah in a strong, loud voice. The moment will be indelibly written in my mind. The room was silent as we all listened to words of the Torah and Yussie had his final turn “in the limelight.” After his aliyah, we threw the bags with fervor as the men danced around the bima with Yussie and we all sang “Siman Tov u’Mazel Tov!” How happy we all were. What a special moment in time!
After the aliyah, I looked around the room and accepted mazel tovs on Yussie’s behalf. What a wonderful world we live in! What a wonderful shul! What an amazing rabbi and rebbetzin who reach out and include Yussie in this warm Chabad of the Five Towns family. One of the first women to greet me was Rebbetzin Chani Wolowik—she just gave birth a little over a week ago and made sure to venture out to share this moment with us! Another such soul, Rebbetzin Hadassah Geisinsky, greeted me as well—her (and Rabbi Meir’s) newest bundle of joy is only a little over a month old and made his shul debut in honor of Yussie’s big day! After the leining and my husband’s wonderful rendition of the haftarah in Yussie’s honor, we were treated to a speech by Rabbi Wolowik that spoke to Yussie’s essence and reminded us all how caring our son is.
As I greeted friends at the Kiddush—catered with delectable foods by our Chabad friend, Steve Kazan of the famous Brooklyn Essen Deli—memories of 13 years ago came flooding back to me. Friends who were there with us when we were fearful of what Yussie’s future held. Friends who gave us chizuk then and continue to do so to this day. My friend Jami reminded me how she had to carefully hold Yussie in the days after his open-heart surgery when he was only a few months old. We have all been through a lot together over the past 13 years, and all our friends and family have contributed to this kind, caring young man who stood at the bima this past Shabbos. Yussie openly expresses his emotions, and is not happy unless everyone else is happy as well.
And so this was a very special Shabbos! May we always share happy and healthy simchas together. v
Phyllis Joy Lubin is an attorney with Maidenbaum & Sternberg, LLP, who resides in Cedarhurst with her husband, Leonard. They have six children: Naftali, Shoshana, Rivka, Rochel, Yosef, and Lea and a daughter-in-law, Nina. The author welcomes your questions and comments at MothersMusings@gmail.com.