This part always makes me cry.
That’s what you said when you saw the little boy fishing off the side of the crescent moon in the DreamWorks title sequence. I feel like you did at your 1st grade concert — not crying, just Happy Tears. Papa has never made it through a speech without Happy Tears. I guess it runs in the family.
We’ve prepared this blessing for you. Really, it is a tribute to the incredible community of family and friends who have shaped you. And to those who came before you, whose faith and fortitude enabled us to reach this day.
This tradition and these opportunities are your inheritance. We love you.
Judah, you chanted verses from Exodus Chapter 21, which begins “And these are the ordinances that you shall set before them.”
Rashi, the great medieval French rabbi and commentator, interprets this to mean that these too are handed down from Mount Sinai — an extension of the ten commandments.
So what? That’s my reaction whenever I encounter a rule. Or a deadline. Or an expiration date. So what?
But you — Judah Matthew — you are a Rules Guy. I don’t get it, but I know where you get it.
You have taught us so much, Judah, including patiently teaching me how to throw a spiral. Just like the Pistons developed the Jordan Rules, we have the Judah Rules to try to keep up with you.
In honor of your becoming bar mitzvah and all the soccer jerseys we lovingly launder, here are the 13 Judah Rules:
1. Why go when you can pogo?
Or skate, scooter, spin, slam, skip, swoop, ski, sled, slide. The expressive, inexhaustible way you parkour through life is a reminder not only to place the journey over the destination, but also that the journey may involve going over one of those big red concrete orbs in front of Target.
2. Size is just a number on your pants.
You taught us that when you turned four and refused to wear 3T pants. Papa covered the 3 with a marker and replaced it with a 4. Problem solved. Of the many gifts handed down to you from mommy’s Grandma Mary and my Grandpa David — from your Great Grandma Marge and Grandma Debbie — height is not one of them. But that hasn’t held you back so far and we suspect it never will. It’s like when I asked you if you knew what Abraham Lincoln said about how long someone’s legs should be and you responded, Siri, how tall was Abraham Lincoln?
3. How about The Judah Special?
What’s The Judah Special? Currently, vanilla yogurt with sea salt chocolate granola. Previously, ramen noodles with umami seasoning; grilled cheese and tomato soup; or, my favorite, half an egg bagel topped with cream cheese, a scrambled egg and a single slice of turkey. Go ahead — eat the same thing every day for as many days as it tastes … special. It’s okay. And then move onto something else. You can always come back to it. This also applies to hooded sweatshirts, Under Armor t-shirts and impossibly tall socks.
4. “I don’t cross the street. I cross the people.”
That’s how you described your role as a Safety at Burton. I don’t cross the street. I cross the people. I knew we should have named you Moses. You have long had an innate sense of responsibility that we hope will lead you to a life of service. God knows, there will be plenty of people who need safe crossing in your lifetime.
5. The only thing better than getting the goal is getting the assist.
You have found the back of the net plenty of times in soccer and hockey. You score and you act like you’ve been there before. But when you pass to a teammate who scores, you race over to celebrate. That joyful generosity you express transcends the scoreboard and the game itself.
6. When is a book about football … about more than just football?
The question posed in the legendary opening line of your 5th grade book report. The answer? When it’s the Book of Judah. Your love of sports — and exasperation at our lack of access to televised sports — speaks to something bigger. It’s about growth and endurance, rhythm and resilience, camaraderie and belonging.
If you hold a remote control in your hand, and it doesn’t spark joy, try taking off the back and removing the batteries. This also applies to ballpoint pens and mechanical pencils.
8. “I don’t want a havdalah. What’s a havdalah?”
So you said. And here we are at your havdalah service.
What’s a blockbuster?
Does the cue ball come with those marks on it?
Does Rick Mahorn remember you?
Are they from countries?
Are we going as one?
Siri, what year did Siri become a state?
To the untrained ear, your questions may seem absent-minded, but we know better. They are Judahisms. Each one exhibits a sweet curiosity and an enviable vulnerability that we hope you hold tight to. Keep wondering. Keep asking questions. And don’t stop mid-question just because the answer to your question is contained within the question itself.
9. Remember that one time I beat you at NBA 2k? Remember when mommy beat you at NHL 21?
10. “Things aren’t out of focus — just blurry.”
That’s how you explained why you didn’t need to wear your glasses. Not out of focus, just blurry. You are going to encounter plenty of uncertainty in the years ahead. Trust your sense of optimism and possibility — the generosity of spirit that has carried you this far. And don’t worry if things seem a little blurry around the edges. That’s because you have an actual astigmatism.
11. “That’s the best you can do.”
You congratulated Phoebe when she showed you an assignment marked Check + Smiley Face. That’s the best you can do. Always do your best, Judah. Sometimes, your best will be the check mark. Others, Check + Smiley Face. If you think you can do even better, don’t stop when you get to Smiley Face. Because you know better than anyone that if your phone isn’t at 100%, it’s not fully charged.
12. “I got Deserts.”
Yes, the Scattergories prompt was Desserts, but there will be times in your life when it seems like everyone around you is enjoying cakes and cookies and the best you can hope for is that Kalahari Desert starts with a C. Sometimes, you are expecting sweet and you get sand. Just remember that, wherever you are on the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Lake Michigan is just over the next dune. Or the one after that.
13. The bois. Shawty Ballers. The Herm Bros. Mowen. Among Us. Ski Club. 48070 for life.
Like the fish that doesn’t realize it’s in water, your natural environment has always been immersed in friendship — so much so that you could almost overlook what a remarkable thing it is.
This part always makes me cry.
You bring yourself so fully to your friendships, whether in a roving band of bicycling hooligans hopped up on Slurpees or making basement Tiktoks at 1:30 in the morning. Could anyone ask for a more fun, supportive and loyal friend than Judah? I think we can speak for the Bros, Lady Bros, Kuzzos and even your Phoebro, when I say that we are lucky to have you in our lives.
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