An Open Letter to Lizzie Rider

Dear Lizzie –

In more than 30 years of serving congregations, I have never missed a wedding or a Bar or Bat Mitzvah until I missed yours. Words cannot express how sad I feel that my car accident kept me from standing with you as you celebrated this most important life cycle event.

I was incredibly proud of how well you prepared and how mature you were as we finished practicing – and I have heard such marvelous things about how you conducted yourself on Saturday. I wish I could have been there. Learning with you was a joyous experience – you were just plain fun to work with – on topic and off topic.

I am writing this because I want to share with you and our congregational family what I had planned to say to you. I felt that something truly special happened this last Shabbat.

I remember challenging you to put yourself in the place of one of the spies – Spy Lizzie. Would you have sided with Joshua and Caleb (the politically correct answer) or would you have sided with the other 10 spies? You grasped that the other spies did not fail to have faith in God; they failed to have faith in themselves. You could understand that. That lack of faith allowed them to do nothing but run.

And I thought of Spy Lizzie.

The greatest fear that most people have is the fear of falling. Second to the fear of falling is the fear of speaking in front of other people. We had talked about this fear – and clearly, getting up in front of people to conduct a service and deliver a speech was not on the top of your list of things you wanted to do.

But, you DID it! You challenged yourself and overcame any doubt you had about yourself. The spies were the elite of Israel – yet they chose to run and hide. Spy Lizzie did not.

I am so proud of you.

Rabbi Stanley Halpern