I took a deep breath, and I counted: One… two… three…
That’s it, we go into the hall. I am so excited that I find it hard to breathe. I am at the center of things, it is my Bar Mitzva.
The band strikes up a lively tune in my honor. Many guests have come, from near and far, to make it a happy event. My classmates are waiting for me at the door.
“Hi, there!” It is Uncle Micha, and he gives me a huge bear hug. “You have become a man, absolutely!” And I think, “What does that mean, a man?? I am still short and little…”
I must say that I love Uncle Micha very much. He is very funny, and he really loves all of his nephews. He never forgets when I have a birthday, and I can always feel his love for me. And the best thing that I love is Uncle Micha’s riddles. For example, “What is it that you can do but you cannot see?” Or: “There is a refrigerator in an insulated room, connected to an electric plug. Its door is open. What will happen to the temperature in the room after a long time?” Or: “What is it that has a neck but no head?”
Today too he came at me with a riddle. He said, “Here is a Bar Mitzva present for you.” And he laughed. “What is more exalted and more important – an angel or a man?” I said right away, “Of course it’s the angel. They are holy and serve G-d directly… Your riddle is too simple. That’s the right answer, isn’t it?” Uncled Micha started to speak, but just then Gal and Shai grabbed me and pushed me into the circle of dancers. Sabba lifted me up on his shoulders, and nobody could have been happier than I was. Then they told all the guests to sit down, and I delivered my speech, which I had been practicing for days. Everybody clapped, they shook my hand, they hugged me and kissed me.
Uncle Micha was right there hugging me. He whispered to me, “Well? An angel or a man?” I wanted to ask him what he meant in more detail, but just then Imma called me to wash my hands and to sit down for the meal. I was so excited I couldn’t eat very much. Luckily for me, the band started playing again and I found myself in the middle of a circle of my friends. And then, right before the end of the party, there was a surprise waiting for me.
Uncle Micha stood on the stage, dressed up as an angel, with a large halo over his head. Abba was standing next to him, wearing his festive suit. Micha took the microphone. He said, “And now, I want to give you all a riddle: What is more important? An angel like me, or a man?” He pointed at Abba, who was trying very hard not to laugh. All my friends shouted out, “An angel! An angel!”
Micha called out, “First listen to what the angel and the man say, and then you will be able to decide!”
So Micha the angel gave a little bow, and he described how he spent a typical day. “Every morning I take my position in front of G-d and listen carefully to hear what mission He has given me for the day. As soon as I understand what I must do, I flap my wings and hurry to do what G-d commanded me. I know that G-d is very happy when I do His will. I never hesitate about whether to do what G-d has told me to do, I always run to accomplish my mission.”
And Micha cried out, “Let me hear your applause for the angel!”
And then the man (Abba) gave a bow and described his day: “Every morning I decide that today I will be better than I was before. I will help my wife, I will study Torah, I will concentrate on my work, I will be good to my children… But it’s not always that easy. Sometimes my evil inclination convinces me to sleep late, or just to be a bit lazy. There are times when I run out of patience… On the days when I manage to choose a good path, I know that G-d is happy with me.”
And Micha cried out, “Let me hear your applause for the man!”
Micha asked again: “Well, who is more important? The angel or the man?” And now, the answers to the riddle that the audience shouted out were different. Some said, “The man!” And others shouted out, “The angel!”
And then Uncle Micha turned to me, and asked, “What does our Bar Mitzva boy say about this?”
I said, “The angel is perfect. He never makes a mistake, and he always succeeds. But this is because he doesn’t have free will! He has no evil inclination to interfere. I am sure that if man didn’t have an evil side he would be just as perfect as the angel.” I stopped to breathe, and I was greeted by a loud round of applause.
I went on. “But it seems to me that G-d is happiest when somebody overcomes his evil inclination and accomplishes his task. That is real wisdom! That is why G-d gave us our will, so that we will really be able to choose what we do!” Abba came down from the stage and kissed me on the head. Uncle Micha was so happy with what I said that he began his own speech. “And now, my dear nephew, on this very important day, you join all the other adults who freely choose how they act. From today you are a man! You observe the mitzvot because you choose to do so, not because you were told to do them. You overcome your evil inclination and that is how you advance… And how happy G-d will be with you!”
And then I finally understood what Uncle Micha meant when he said that I had become a man.
And from then on, whenever I make the right choice I understand that this is the most important thing of all. And when I miss (which does happen now and then), I say to myself: “Hey, you’re not an angel! Don’t give up! Next time you can make a better choice!”
And when I do make the right choice, it is not only G-d who is happy.