While some knew him as Jonah and others as Mac, we all loved and respected him. And we miss him dearly.

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Becoming a Man … Plus 10

2013 happens to mark the tenth year since Jonah Dreskin became a Bar Mitzvah. His Torah reading was from Terumah (Exodus 25:8-22), which we read just a few weeks back in early February. Needless to say, Jonah the Bar Mitzvah has been on my mind.

They weren’t the most captivating verses of Torah — intricate details about constructing the desert Tabernacle. But there’s this one verse, “Let them make Me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” This, of course, appealed to the young Bar Mitzvah’s clergy parents who had hoped their child would understand their hope that he himself would become a dwelling place for God’s presence on earth. But I wasn’t sure it caught much more than a yawn from Jonah. Nevertheless, when he wrote his D’var Torah (his Bar Mitzvah speech), he fairly ripped into God with accusations of abandoning Earth just when we could really use some help. At the time, I thought Jonah was writing this simply to stick it to his rabbi and cantor mom and dad. But now, as I read it ten years later, with the hindsight of knowing the kind of person Jonah had grown into in the six years that he lived beyond becoming a Bar Mitzvah, I realize that this kid really understood the mess our world was in and how important it was for good people to try and fix things.

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In my Parent’s D’var Torah that morning, I reflected publicly on changes I’d been noticing in Jonah’s behavior: “Is that my Jonah helping his little brother? Is that my Jonah setting the table for dinner? Is that my Jonah distributing hot coffee and friendly conversation on the Midnight Run?” I spoke about how I’d need to get used to having a son who, more and more, sees himself as part of a larger world, as playing a principal role in the unfolding story of humankind. Frankly, if I’m totally honest, I don’t think that, at the time, I unquestioningly believed he was becoming the wonderful kid I had been talking about.

But it didn’t matter. Because he was. Those moments I had observed? They really did represent a sea-change that was taking place in him. Jonah really was becoming a nicer brother to Aiden. He really was helping out around the house. And he really was starting to care about the welfare of strangers.

In other words, he really was becoming a Bar Mitzvah. If ever there was a kid making that turn around the corner, leaving immature childhood behind, and moving forward into something deeper, something more substantial, it was Jonah Maccabee Dreskin. Over the next few years, he would quite literally blossom into an extraordinarily kind and generous brother, son, and young man.

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For my birthday, two weeks after he became a Bar Mitzvah, Jonah presented me with a framed photograph of the two of us standing together at the Ark. It was an over-pixelated photo, partly the low-resolution of the shot and partly Jonah’s digital editing. I never let on that I hadn’t really liked the picture (I’m a clean edges kind of guy) but I dutifully hung it on my wall. Silly me, that I missed the love that had been inserted into that frame. This 13-year old kid was proud of standing up there with his old man rabbi, and he was proud of what he could do to change that picture (perhaps figuratively, as well as literally). In time, he would excel at digital manipulation. He would also excel at changing the picture of his own life. But love? He didn’t need any improvement in that department.

I did.

Ten years later, I now realize that it’s not just the Bar Mitzvah kid who’s on a journey to adulthood. A whole lot of us parents are too.

Mazal tov, boy. I’m so proud of all you accomplished. You really did build a place for God to live. Right inside of you.

Love,
Dad

P.S. Please support The Jonah Maccabee Foundation. More information is available at our website and on our Facebook page.

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