Upsherin, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, 1995
Upsherin, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, 1995Click to Enlarge
What do you see in this photograph? A young boy sits on a rabbi’s lap, and together they point to Hebrew letters while a jar of honey sits beside them on the table. It is a custom in some communities that when a boy reaches three years of age, he gets his hair cut for the first time (everything except the peot, or corners) and learns his first Hebrew letters. But what is the honey for? They use the honey to show the child that studying Torah is sweet. This is an important event in the life of this boy: His sisters and other family members look on as he starts down the path of Talmud Torah—Jewish learning.
There are three names by which a person is called:
One by which her father and mother call her,
And one by which others call her,
And that which she earns for herself.
The best one of these is the one that she earns for herself.
– Adapted from the Midrash Tanhuma
משֶֹה קִיבֵּל תּוֹרָה מִסִינָי, וּמְסָרָהּ לִיהוֹשֻׁעַ, וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ לִזְקֵנִים, וּזְקֵנִים לִנְבִיאִים, וּנְבִיאִים מְסָרוּהָ לְאַנְשֵׁי כְנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה. הֵם אָמְרוּ שְׁלוֹשָׁה דְבַרִים: הֱיוּ מְתוּנִים בַּדִּין, וְהַעֲמִידוּ תַּלְמִידִים הַרְבֵּה, וַעֲשׂוּ סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה.
At Sinai Moses received the Torah and handed it over to Joshua who handed it over to the elders who handed it over to the prophets who in turn handed it over to the men of the Great Assembly. The latter said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples, and make a fence around the Torah.
– Pirkei Avot 1:1