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Saying Shehechayanu
Last uploaded : Tuesday 23rd Sep 2003 at 01:37
Contributed by : Jeff Dunetz


Will the hopes of September 13, 2003 be realized?
That famous handshake on September 13, 1993. When I close my eyes, I can still see the ?reformed? terrorist Arafat, grasping the palm of Prime Minister Rabin. I remember saying the Shehechayanu prayer, thanking G-d for keeping me alive and letting me see this glorious day. The whole world was full of optimism---Even the usually dour Warren Christopher stepped up to the microphone to gloat, saying that the impossible was now possible.

Many of us (including me) let ourselves believe that 45 years of attacks against Israel peace were over; peace was finally within arms reach. Once the agreement with the Palestinians was finalized, there was no excuse remaining; the other Arab nations had to fall into line.

Ten years later the promise of ?Oslo? has faded. Rabin is dead, the peace process has been replaced by homicide bombers, anti-Semitism is once again in-vogue within ?polite? European circles, and the word terrorism is no longer used to describe Jewish children being blown up by homicide bombers. The optimism of September 13, 1993 is gone, replaced by a foreboding, a sense of isolation, that the whole world is against the Jewish people.

The afternoon of September 13, 2003, exactly ten years after that handshake I sat in shul. My daughter Alexa was on the Bimah about to become Bat Mitzvah. Soon I would be called up in front of the entire congregation of family and friends to say the Shehecayanu prayer. That was going to be a problem. Despite bursting with pride over the great job my daughter was doing, I was getting very sad. Shehechaynu was the furthest thing from my mind. All I could think about was that other September 13 ten years ago. How do I know that the hope and promise of this September 13 wouldn?t be blown away like the one a decade ago? I so wanted the optimism of this date to be borne out.

As my daughter began to read Parsha Nizvatim form the Torah, I couldn?t stop thinking about Nava Applebaum. Earlier in the week she and her father were at a caf? in Jerusalem the night before she was to get married. One of Arafat?s terrorists came in wearing a bomb --- and they were killed. Nava was buried on what was supposed to be one of the happiest days of her life.

What would it be like ten years from now when, G-d willing, my daughter was ready to be a bride? Will terrorists who are afraid of peace still send children to blow up girls and their fathers the night before their wedding day? In the United States, will Anti-Semitism be tolerated under the smoke screen of anti-Zionism, like it is now in much of the rest of the world? What of the Jewish people? After almost 5,000 years will we finally be destroyed via a combination of terror, anti-Semitism and our own indifference to what kept us around for all those years?the Torah?

Alexa began to walk toward the pulpit to deliver her Bat Mitzvah d?var Torah. After that I would have to make my public prayer. But was there really something to be thankful for? The future looked so bleak. I prayed that G-d would give me a sign -- something to make me feel good about my daughter?s future. Something to make me want to say the Shehechaynu prayer.

Alexa was so confident as she began to talk about the message of Moshe?s final teaching to the Jewish people. He reminded the people that the Torah was not in heaven, that it was in our hearts and within our reach. She concluded by saying:
?even though it seems like a very difficult job to live by the Torah and learn all of its lessons, it?s not. Like the Rabbis said, it is our job to bring the Torah into our lives and G-d never gives us a job we can?t do. As I stand here tonight on the Bimah, having read my Torah portion, I realize what it means to become a Bat Mitzvah. It means that it is now my job to find ways to bring the Torah into my own life. And it means that I can do it.?

Those four words did it. ?I can do it.? There! That?s the reason for the optimism. Ten years from now the world we will be better off, because of my daughter and children just like her.

There is a story that when G-d offered the Torah to the Jewish people, he asked for collateral, something to guarantee that Torah was being given to the right people. At first the Jews offered all their jewels, but G-d said it wasn't enough. We offered all of our livestock; ?a pittance? said the Lord. Finally the Jewish people offered their children. They promised to teach the Torah to their children for all the generations to come. Every child that confidently steps up to the Torah and says to G-d , ?I?m ready to do this, and I CAN DO IT, ? keeps that promise. September 13th is once again a day of hope because every child that learns to love and honor the teaching that G-d revealed to us through Moses 3,000 years ago brings us one step closer to the promise of peace.

I beamed as the Rabbi blessed Alexa. She had worked very hard and come so far, but now I knew that there was much reason to be optimistic. Because she had chosen the right road -- Torah.
At the appointed time the words swelled out of my mouth like a dam bursting :

Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokaynu Melech Haolam, Shehecaynu v?key?manu v?higi-amu la-zman hazeh.

Praised are you our G-d, who rules the universe, granting us life, sustaining us and enabling us to reach this day.

Jeff Dunetz is a freelance commentator on Jewish issues. He lives in suburban New York with his wife and two children -- in his own words, his 'two wonderful kids.' (Would that parents of suicide bombers felt this way about their precious offspring.) If you would like to read more of Jeff's commentary visit



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