In The Trenches

Bar Mitzvah Lessons

Published on May 4, 2021 Back to blog
From left: Jason Margolis, Charley Margolis and Amy Margolis

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending the Bar Mitzvah of a close family friend. It was a beautiful ceremony – and extra nice to actually be present in the temple as opposed to watching via Zoom. As our friends Amy and Jason read their inspiring words of praise and wisdom to their son (the Bar Mitzvah boy, Charley), I couldn’t help but think of re-purposing Amy’s comments as a blog post, as the lessons she shared are ones for everyone to take note. So, without further ado, here’s Amy’s speech to Charley (with a few definitions/links added in):

Charley, this week last Fall you were in a temple zoom class learning about Sukkot(a week-long Jewish holiday that celebrates the gathering of the harvest). The class assignment: build your own Sukkah (a hut built to celebrate the holiday). 

You turned to the web and found many elaborate sukkahs with fabric or thatched sides. You finally settled on not a single, but a double sukkah, made out of wood. You promised there were “very easy step by step directions” online. Your Dad looked at your inspiration and said — quote — “this would be a great bonding project for the two of us”. We reviewed the inspiration, talked pros and cons, level of complexity, and cost. After you went to bed, I began researching PVC mail order kits to simplify matters. These did not live up to your vision. With persuasive arguments about yearly reuse, and again, step by step directions, you convinced me to build the double wood sukkah. 

We headed to Home Depot and filled our cart full of 2x4s, joist hangers, bolts and washers. At home, we got out our tape measures and power tools. All was well until we needed to hand-cut 64 notches. 

We needed some serious outside help. Luckily, your grandpa, Pop, lives nearby and has a wood shop. With some seemingly simple cuts, we were back in business. The rest was slow and deliberate: following directions, bolting and screwing, and calling in extra neighborhood hands when needed. With at-home schooling, and increased outdoor living, your sukkah stayed up well past Sukkot and took on new functions: a place for naps , outdoor movies, and my favorite — a cabana for the neighborhood ladies night.

While this may just seem like a story of how we built something, I think these are the big lessons:

1. Dream Big.  You had an idea, you knew what you wanted, With research, persistence and vision, you did it. 

2. Break it Down.  When a task seems too big to handle, break it down into smaller actionable pieces.

3. Work Hard.  Most things worth doing don’t come easy.

4. Pay Attention to Details.  This project came together because we worked slowly and carefully.

5. Call in Your People.  Tap the people you rely on to get a job done. 

 Charley, it is clear that you’ve learned these lessons and more. We are so proud of the way you’ve taken on the challenge of becoming a Bar Mitzvah, and the way you take on every challenge. You work hard, put in the time, and take things head on. Everything you do is uniquely Charley. Your Dad and I are so proud of who you are, and who you are becoming. We are also looking forward to another season in our Sukkah cabana.

 A big thanks to my friend, Amy Margolis, for letting me share her speech with all of you. I hope you found it as inspirational and relevant as I did. Please feel free to share this with others and, if you have any comments, please post them here. Also, following Amy’s lesson #5, I am now accepting guest posts for consideration. If you are interested, please let me know.

Jeff Freedman
CEO/Managing Partner
Small Army | Finn Partners