Friday, Tevet 6, 5780 – January, 2020
Our Dearest Nina Rivka,
6,338,880 minutes. 105,648 hours. 4402 days.
That’s how many minutes, hours, and days have passed, since we last hugged you so strongly, so tearfully, so passionately. I’ll never forget that magical day. Mommy and I rushed to the Paradise Valley hospital in Scottsdale, and after so many prayers, so many swirling emotions, and so much pain and effort (mainly on Mommy’s end!), your tiny, pure, innocent and delicate being emerged onto planet earth. As we hugged you tightly for the first time, our eyes were tearing with joy. After four beautiful boys, we were blessed with you, our radiant princess, and our hearts were dancing with gratitude. Our souls were set aflame with jubilance.
Today, our beloved daughter, Nina Rivka, as we hug you so tightly as you become a Bat Mitzvah, and a fully-fledged adult, chassida, and mentsch, we feel the exact same.
It’s strange. These two distinct days are diametrically opposed. Then, on the day of your birth, you were so small. Today, you are such a giant. Then, you were facing life and all of its fluctuations. Today, life is facing you. Then you were developing your wings. Today, you are spreading them far and wide, to continue to soar to the heavens.
Still, our hug, then and now, felt the very same. And the reason, I believe, is telling: The circumstances of your birth and your Bat Mitzvah day, are certainly different. But our parent-child relationship is not. The oneness of our being, the strength of our bond, the fervency of our love, is beyond the grasp of any confrontational force, even if the latter includes geographical distances. Nothing – indeed, nothing – can ever menace the interconnectedness of our souls, that were woven so perfectly by G-d Himself.
A few days ago, as we observed you preparing your Bat Mitzvah video, your speeches, and your Mitzvah projects, our minds floated to an impossible place:
Did we do a “good-enough” job to lead you to this day and to equip you with all the tools that your adult life will now require? The answer, only G-d knows. Still, our dear daughter, below is another daring attempt to empower you with some ideas as you embark on this journey called life, in which you will undoubtedly continue to grow, shine and succeed, from strength to strength, to become a woman of G-d and His people, and an agent of wisdom and goodness to each and all:
1. Dream Big
“Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a heaven for?” Robert Browning, an English poet, once wrote. He was right: Don’t hesitate to place the bar of your dreams, very, very high. Even if it seems ‘too’ high. For it is our dreams that make us who we are.
In our Torah, all of our heroes dreamed big: Avraham dreamed of changing the world by teaching humanity about G-d and monotheism. Yosef dreamed of becoming a royal king. Moshe dreamed of leading our nation into Eretz Yisrael, our holy and promised land. They each faced the harshest of challenges, but they never stopped dreaming. That is what made them the greatest of the greats. And that is what will make you the greatest of the greats too.
2. Work Hard
Your great-grandfather, Sassi Pinchas Allouche and his wife, Nina for whom you were named, used to repeat a one-liner which has now been engraved in the consciousness of our family: “We must achieve today, much more than we did yesterday, and much less than we will do tomorrow.”
I have no doubt that you too, Nina Rivka, will follow his calling. At times, you will certainly be tested. Life is filled with challenges. But it is the people who work relentlessly hard to go forward, that eventually succeed, beyond measure.
3. You Can Be Your Greatest Friend or You Can Be Your Greatest Enemy
When I was your age, our dear Rabbi and mashpia, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, or “Rav Adin” as we like to call him, once called me aside and asked me: “Do you know what my greatest obstacle is?” Before I was able to utter a word, he replied: “It is me, Adin,” he said. “And the same goes for you. The greatest obstacle to you, Pini, is Pini. Once you will learn to master yourself, you will not have any problems in mastering the world.”
It was the best advice I had ever received. And it makes sense: each of us, as you know possesses a G-dly soul and an animal soul. It’s simple: the G-dly soul wants us to do good. The animal soul wants us to do animalistic things.
Both the G-dly soul and the animal soul talk to us throughout the day. That’s how G-d made us. But almost always, you will know and feel deep within you, which voice you ought to listen to. Here’s a tip: The G-dly soul will almost always lead you toward Mitzvot and good actions. Conversely, the animal soul doesn’t want you to engage in doing good. If you’re unsure which voice you should listen to, you can always ask me, Mommy or a teacher of yours that you trust.
And as Rabbi Steinsaltz taught, if you can follow your G-dly soul and control the animal one, you too will see that you will be able to master the world.
4. You Are Greater Than What You May Think. You are indeed an “Eshet Chayil”
The holy Chassidic Rebbe, Rabbi Aharon of Karlin, once said that “the greatest tragedy of life, is when a prince stops believing that he is a prince, and a princess stops believing that she is a princess. They then settles for less because they think they are less.”
How true. I know that, sometimes, we doubt ourselves, and our ability to make a real difference.
Remember that line in The Lion King, when Mufasa tells his son Simba, whose territory and royalty had been robbed from him by a vicious uncle: “You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. You are more than what you have become. You must take your place in the Circle of Life.”
Today, Nina Rivka, as you take your place in the Circle of Life, you too must never forget to look inside yourself. There, you will always find your Divine soul with its infinite potential, and endless treasures. You are indeed a princess. Or, in the words, of King Solomon you are an Eshet Chayil, a woman of strength.
People may lure you into doing dumb things, just because “everyone does them.” Life may throw at you all sorts of challenges. But always remember that you were born to be G-d’s princess, and that He has given you all of the power and skills to be royal, and act royally, in every place, at every moment, with every person.
5. No, Don’t “Pursue Happiness”
Just Fulfill Your Purpose, and Happiness Will Come To You
Viktor Frankl, one of my favorite authors, once wrote: “Don’t aim at happiness…You have to just let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long-run, happiness will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think about it.“
Indeed, happiness happens, not when you pursue it, but when you fulfill your unique purpose in life. If you live every moment fully, and seize every opportunity that is presented to you, then you will be happy.
Here’s a little secret: As a Rabbi, my main goal in life is to make people happy by supporting and encouraging people to stay true to themselves, to their Jewish identity, to their Divine souls. Sadly, too often, I see people become that which they are not. And it pains me. Some become doctors when they really wanted to be lawyers. Some become racing business-men when they really wanted to be settled family-men. And some turn into a pathetic version of their neighbor instead of a version of their true selves. So they become sad.
Nina Rivka, Mommy and I know that you are truly special and unique. G-d created only one Nina Rivka in the entire world. And He wants you to be YOU the YOU that possesses a shining Jewish soul that yearns to follow Hashem’s Torah and do His Mitzvot, and the YOU that is blessed with so many special talents and skills – from the brilliance of your intellect, to the vastness of your compassionate heart, to your amazing artistic talents and many other skills, to your willingness to run to do a Mitzvah, no matter its degree of difficulty. And if you actualize your YOU fully, your life will be filled with blessings, and happiness will then come to you, and never leave you.
6. Ok, One Final Idea
Ok, here’s one final idea. Perhaps, this idea is the most important of all: Know that Abba and Mommy are always here for you, with endless and unconditional love. And if you ever need an ear to listen to you, a heart to feel you, a soul to shine upon you, Abba and Mommy are always, always available for you.
One of my favorite songs growing up, was an Israeli song composed by Arik Einstein, titled “Ouf Gozal / Fly Away Young Bird.” It is a riveting song about an older bird, singing to his young chicks, soon after they departed from his nest:
My little birds have left the nest
Spread their wings and flew away
And I, an old bird, remain in the nest
Really hoping that everything will be alright.
I always knew the day would come
When we’d have to part
But now it came to me so suddenly
So what is the wonder that I am a bit concerned.
Fly, little bird
Cut through the sky
Fly to wherever you want
Just don’t forget
There’s an eagle in the sky
Our dearest, dearest daughter, Nina Rivka, we say to you too: fly, cut through the sky. Soar to the highest, most spiritual of heavens, in the ways of our Torah, Mitzvot and Chassidout.
And continue to bring us, the Rebbe, Rav Adin, Sidi Bahe, Nina for whom you are named, and all of your surroundings, abundant Nachat and pride, always.
ישימך אלוהים כשרה רבקה, רחל ולאה, יברכך ה’ וישמרך, יאר ה’ פניו אליך ויחונך, ישא ה’ פניו אליך וישם לך שלום
With endless love,
Abba & Mommy