What’s the Grandfathers’ Secret?

What’s the Grandfathers’ Secret?

At Yoel’s siddur party, I was watching the old men as much as I was watching my own son.

I was watching Rabbi G, the sixty-something grandfather with decades as a 1st-grade teacher under his belt, as he clapped his hands and danced with abandon while he led the parade of boys to the synagogue to receive their first siddur.

And I was watching grandfather Rabbi Y, a distinguished teacher at a leading yeshiva AND one of the school’s principals AND kvelling father taking snapshot after snapshot as his youngest son received his 1st siddur that morning.

And I was watching grandfather Rabbi D, a chief dayan from Jerusalem’s rabbinic courts, who spent an entire hour bent down to 6-year-old height as he gave 52 personalized blessings for every single boy based on his name. To my son, he said, “You were named after Yoel the prophet, and therefore you must grow up to be like Yoel—-learning Torah and serving Hashem!”

Rabbi G. and Rabbi Y. and Rabbi D. have attended dozens upon dozens of siddur parties. Siddur parties of their students and children and grandchildren. But witnessing their high level of emotion this past Friday, I could have easily thought that this was the first time they had ever seen a six-year-old receive his first siddur.

What’s their secret?

This morning as I was walking home I stepped past a large fallen branch on the sidewalk. It was a perfect branch—-large and heavy and bursting with leaves. Only problem was that it was as dead as a doornail: the leaves potato-chip crunchy and burnt-sienna brown.

That’s what happens, I thought, when you are cut off from your source.

And Rabbi G. and Rabbi Y. and Rabbi D. are the opposite of that branch, even as the years and the decades pass by…

With roots planted deep down to Hashem and the Torah, they feel with every ounce of their being the thrill of seeing a Jewish child putting down his first baby root and blossoming his very first sprout of green heavenward, IY”H.

Watch veteran 3rd Grade teacher Baruch Levine getting emotional, like Rabbis G, Y, and D, as he sings “V’Zakeini” to the young representatives of the 13,000 Masmidei HaSiyum Hashas who learned hundreds of thousands of Mishnayot and lines of Gemara in honor of the 2012 Siyum Hashas (this was, of course, the same song that was playing when Rabbi D. blessed the boys this past Friday:)


  1. I love siddur parties -they always make me cry and this time, just reading about one made me cry too! Mazal tov to you and to Yoel. May this new stage bring much nachas to all of you and may the new “siddur boys” always daven with as much kavana and purity as they did when they received their first siddur.

  2. mazel tov! much nachat from your sweet son and all your children.

  3. Much Nachas, it is such an important first step and we daven for all kids that they continue in the path of cleaving to Torah and Hashem’s ways. I love this song.

  4. Debbie Shapiro

    As a bubby who sometimes goes to several of these parties each year (and I’ve even had a few on the same day!) I get emotional each time. The video is beautiful. Thank you.

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