Happy First 22nd Birthday, Elie

When we lived in America, we lived 100% of the time on the standard January – December calendar…well, almost. We celebrated Jewish holidays, of course, and followed the Hebrew months as they came and went. But when our oldest daughter was born on Rosh Hashana, the first day of the new year (actually, she was born on the second day, but you get the point), it was impossible to ignore this day and so we celebrated her birthday on Rosh Hashana….AND what we called her “English” birthday.

Then Elie was born, just three days before the Jewish holiday of Shavuot but the tradition was established already and so he, too, had “two” birthdays…and so it went. My next son was born exactly a week after the holiday of Purim…it became impossible to ignore the Hebrew calendar and so our children became accustomed to celebrating the Hebrew and the English birthdays and often, all the time in between was their “birthday zone.” Until we moved to Israel. Here, we tend to celebrate the “Hebrew” birthday more often than the “English,” though there are still times we celebrate both.

This year, Elie will celebrate both, or at least I hope he will. Today is his Hebrew birthday. He’ll be home this weekend, though he wants to spend the upcoming holiday (which takes place on Friday and runs into the Shabbat) at his yeshiva. He’s gotten permission to take a “vacation” day on Sunday. That’s his English birthday.

I don’t know yet what we’ll do, or if he’ll want to do something on his own or with friends. All I know is that my soldier son is now, according to the Hebrew calendar, 22-years-old.

He called me this morning about something simple. I asked him if he’d called to wish me a happy birthday, after all, I was the one that gave birth, right? He was distracted, busy and in the middle of something and didn’t even know it was his birthday. I’ll make him a cake this weekend and see if I can buy him something. Most of all, I’ll just be grateful for who he is, how he is, and yes, even where he is. All that he does continues to shape him into the man he will become and I find I like that person very much.

So…as you leave your childhood further and further behind, my precious son – may you go from strength to strength in health and safety. May you continue to fight for what is right and know that behind you stands a nation that is forever grateful that you and your friends stand for us.

You and your brothers and sisters fill my life with joy, my heart with pride, and my soul with love. It will be many years before you will truly understand that love – somewhere around the time they hand you your first child, God willing, will you perhaps finally know this amazing truth. For now, you prefer the simpler things in life – driving, playing on the computer, speaking of guns and a life I know so little about, leading your troops and balancing the responsibilities you are given, solving problems and fixing things that break, and so much more. But underneath all these elements, there is the man emerging from the boy.

The boy that was, is almost gone. He’s still there sometimes, especially at home playing with his little sister; but the man leaves after the weekends and returns to base and the boy goes with him because that is the way of things. And then, some time later, it is the man that comes home, with the boy hidden deep inside. More and more it is the man I speak to on the phone, and now it is the man I will wish a happy birthday.

May you live to 120 and may all your days be filled with love and life; health and happiness; friendship and pride.

Happy birthday, Elie. I love you more than words could ever express.

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