OZshalom is the name that Cole chose for his Hebrew name when he became a bar mitzvah. He gave it a tremendous amount of deep thinking, as was his way with everything. OzShalom means peaceful warrior in Hebrew.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all worlds, who girds me with courage.
Blessed are you, Adonai our God, sovereign of all worlds, who guide my steps.
These blessings speak to me, as I have experienced these things, and have chosen to walk down a path. I am a quiet person. I am not a ‘people’ person. It takes courage to be this way, as our society encourages people to be outgoing and I am not naturally that way. Our society does not seem to allow people to have time alone with the time to think. Our society does not seem allow breathing space. Because of this, people like me can seem odd or different, particularly at this age. We are known as outsiders because we are different in our society. We cling to each other for comfort. That is how we make friends. That is our social life. That is how we live.
But then sometimes we need the courage to leap into the unknown, to be a part of larger society. We stand together to fight the coming onslaught. I had a personal experience when I had to do this. Bravery is a big part of this too. Anyone can be brave. But it’s hard to be brave a just the right moment, when you NEED it. That’s why we have each other. One of us rises up, all of us follow.
When I was in the 5th grade I experienced a conflict with my friend Ryan. I was friends with another kid named Ethan. But Ryan and Ethan always had a bit of a rivalry. They would always get into fights and would fight about petty things. They would try to convince me to try and stay friends with only ONE of them. I would say no. The reasons I befriended these two was because I was the new kid at this school and I was always a lone wolf. An ‘outsider’. The kids at this school didn’t treat me like one, but I felt like one because I prefer to be alone. Being alone is… quiet. Ryan and Ethan were also lone wolves. The thing is, lone wolves like being close to people who’ve been through the same problems as them.
I became friends with Ethan first. He was a troublemaker, and was actually really funny if you took the time to think about it, but the other kids didn’t seem to think so. They didn’t like him. Ethan and I were good friends. We trusted each other. Then, along came Ryan. He was kind of rash and mean to the other kids. He was nice though, to me. I mellowed him a bit. Not much, but enough to prevent him from yelling so much. He then became quiet, and stopped being so mean. It was us, the quiet one, the troublemaker, and the rash one. But then, Ethan and Ryan changed, when they met each other. Ethan told me they didn’t like each other. They got into a lot more fights. I either got called over to stop the fight, or I went over there myself. Ryan told me that he hated me. That was the day I told myself, “I’m done with him”. I disconnected from him.
Then one day, Ryan was getting harassed by our whole class AND two teachers, homeroom and music. It was because he forgot his recorder and was whining about it. After class, Ryan was at the back of the line, silently crying. Everyone was harassing him. I noticed that a few weren’t, like Ethan. But the sight of everyone against him, and no one defending him made my anger reach my limit. I snapped. I yelled at them like my lungs were not there and I could breathe forever. Everyone seemed shocked. Like I said, I was always the quiet one, and never really spoke much. Then, something SERIOUSLY weird happened. They all CONGRATULATED ME. Then the homeroom teacher took us to our room, and we had a class meeting about what happened. This was near the end of school. When school ended, I successfully was still friends with Ethan, even greater than before. But then I saw Ryan. He smiled at me, like I had redeemed myself in his eyes. Then he walked away, still smiling. And right then I knew, we were still friends. He accepted that I was still friends with Ethan. And that there, is a good ending.
So I can relate to the story where Jacob finds that his brother is sending 400 men to attack the village. He helped his family and his flock get away in time. Then he stayed behind. He wrestled what was apparently one of the soldiers. Through a whole day, he did not break him. Then the soldier said basically, “ You have struggled long and hard. That is enough struggling”. What this represents is someone fighting for a certain goal, and then recieving it. My story with Ethan and Ryan describes bravery, common sense, and loneliness. That is my definition of a lone wolf. You have to be brave enough to stand alone, but wise enough to stand together.
Jacob was fighting for a worthy cause. And I was too. What my interpretation of the meaning of life is, is that there is no particular path of life. We made those paths over time, with our footprints etched in the soil. The roads were always completed. What I understand is that there is always a goal to work toward, as long as you believe it is worthy.
By the time I was 13, I understood this. I think that becoming a bar mitzvah, is the act of understanding, and then pursuing those goals, to do something great in the world.
My Bar Mitzvah
by Cole Tucker
You endow the human being with the power to know. You teach a person understanding. May You provide me now with intelligence, understanding and wisdom. Blessed are You, Life Unfolding, who graces me with knowing.
This blessing makes me think about all of the people who I am grateful to. I am grateful to my parents, for giving me a sense of right and wrong. I am grateful to my teachers (both past and present) for giving me skills in math and common sense (but mostly math). I am grateful to my friends for lightening the load on my shoulders, and making me happy. And I am grateful to my siblings, for teaching me how you have to take the good with the bad sometimes and that your family is always there for you.
Thank you for being here with me to celebrate this truly special day.