"NOW YOU are a bochur," I said to my son when he turned bar mitzvah. "You have the power of bechirah — of choice. I hope you will be influenced by the choices that were made by those you come from.
"I hope you will follow in the footsteps of your grandfather — my father — a survivor of the Nazi death camps who chose to live as a Torah-centered Jew. So many of those who came out of the camps went the other way, and nobody would have blamed Saba had he decided to have nothing more with being Jewish. But he made a different choice.
"I hope you will be influenced by the example of your grandmother. She grew up in a home where Jewish observance was minimal and Torah learning even less, but she made the choice to become observant — to be a chozeres b'teshuva. When the time came to raise children of her own, she made sure that they were blessed with the Jewish education that she never had.
"Most of all I hope that, as a new bochur, you will be inspired by your mother, who made the most consequential and courageous bechirah of all — to leave the tradition she was raised in, to embrace Judaism and the Jewish people, and to begin studying all over again — starting with alef-beis-gimel — when she was already a grown woman."
I told my son: "You will have to make choices every day for the rest of your life. Choosing to do the right thing can be hard. Whenever you are tempted to go astray, I hope you will think of the people you come from, and remember: They could have taken the easy way out, and didn't."
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).
-- ## --
Want to read more Jeff Jacoby? Sign up for "Arguable," his free weekly email newsletter