Todah Rabah

My Bar Mitzvah celebration this past Saturday morning is certainly an experience that I will never forget, and one that I will hold in my heart for as long as I live. There were so many beautiful moments and people present on this past Shabbat morning that it would be close to impossible to put the totality of the experience into cogent sentences. I am sure that many future posts on this blog will have glints of joy still radiating from the day. Having much of my family present was so very meaningful–my wife by my side as the day’s cantor, my mother and my grandparents, from whom my Jewish history begins, were able to come up on the bimah for aliyot. My son and I sang “Hineih Mah Tov” together, as the congregation joined in as well. I know I will never forget how beautiful it was to have both my wife and mother wrap the tallit around me as I said the blessing for this particular mitzvah (Yes, I found a correctly sized tallit!). Also, I am fortunate enough to be passing through this life at the same time as our amazing Rabbi and his brilliant wife, the former showing so much humility and grace by allowing me to run almost the entire service, and to be comfortable and joyful doing so. The latter sending me words of healing and comfort on my anxious night before this thunderously powerful morning. 

The entire Temple Beth El congregation was supportive, generous, and just so uplifting, and continues to be. From our tireless Administrator, our devoted Religious School Director, and kind and warm Temple President, one could not be surrounded by a superior group of human beings. From the professor who carried the Torah while I was weak, to the retired teacher who served as Gabbai. From the Gabbai’s wife who offered her Challah and hugs, to those who gave gifts that were all so unnecessary, but will be cherished. To the Music Director/friend/family and her family who just give and give. I could go in circles and name everyone–even the step-siblings who traveled for an entire day just to show support, and my in-laws who traveled hundreds of miles to do the same. Wow. All who attended, or simply sent any kind words from afar, you were with me on this day. 

The week leading up to Saturday was not without its share of stress. I came down with some sort of virus early Friday morning, and am still febrile and sick(ish) as I write these words on Sunday evening. There is no doubt in my mind that the R’fuah Sh’leimah and healing energy that was sent my way on Friday night not only helped me to get through the service, but also allowed me to enjoy and immerse myself in the depth of the prayer as I had hoped to. 

I will certainly go rest now, and try to fully allow my body to recover. I am also excited to continue learning, to read more and more Hebrew and Jewish literature. The hole has been filled, the chapter filled in, and now it is time to continue building and creating for the future. 

You who showed support are all my personal prophet “Elisha” (if you can recall my Drasha). I am forever grateful.

Right now, all I can say is a momentous Todah Rabah.



Published by Joshua Gray

I am Joshua Gray. I am a husband, father, not-for-profit-worker by day, and a former professional actor/singer. I am very active in the Jewish community in my area, helping to teach at religious school on Sundays, while also serving on the board of trustees at my local temple. My relationship with Judaism is a joy of mine, and I find great pleasure in studying texts and learning more and more Hebrew. I still enjoy warbling tunes, and I even got to sing the Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur, which was a definite highlight. Please feel free to contact me with any ideas for topics, conversations, or general inquiries. Shalom!

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