Monday, March 03, 2014

Video of the Speech

Recorded for posterity. Great crowd:!3210&cid=c74a7fb8cfef894e&authkey=!Ap9I4Oz4ZOIrnb0

Sunday, March 02, 2014

My Avodas Hakodesh Award Introduction Speech at Our Shul's 124th Anniversary Dinner

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, before I introduce Yoni, I’d like to take advantage of this rare opportunity I have to publicly thank some deserving people.

Firstly, my hat goes off to our President for his back-breaking efforts on behalf of our shul. It takes a lot out of him, as you can see. He’s railer thin than usual. He’s so skinny, his pants have one belt loop.

Oh, pardon me, this is a draft from the roast speech I wrote for his birthday a few years ago.

Ah, here it is. Thank you, Yaakov Ochs, for everything you do for us.

Secondly, I’d like to thank the co-chairs of the dinner committee, Mrs. Lorraine Ochs and Mrs. Naomi Bodek. Your attention to detail is masterful; you demand, and exceed, a high level of professionalism from yourselves and your talents; you also do it with a spirit of achdus – which makes the rav of our shul very happy indeed. Yours is a paradigm for how things should be done. It’s inspiring to watch, I’m in the passenger seat. You are both, as usual, on opposite sides of the room, because, like in Othello, when you control the edges, you control the whole board. Thank you, ladies.

Now for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Mordechi Bodek, and I have opinions. I don’t usually offer them unsolicited, but if you ask for them, I’m going to give them to you, with the full force of whatever conviction I have.

One of these opinions is that anything I said in the past was completely infantile, but anything I say now is entirely wisdom.

For example, at this moment, I’m thinking, “I’m a clever guy, I’ve got some good jokes written here.” But five years from now, I’ll reflect and wonder what I was thinking. As a matter of fact, when I sit down right after this speech, I’ll think, “Why didn’t I show this to Naomi so she could edit this and that out?”

So if I think that about myself, you can only imagine what I think of the opinions and words of people who are years younger than I am.

Which brings me to Yoni Sheer.

It’s not what you think. Stay with me.

Yoni’s father, David, asked me if I’d like to introduce Yoni at the shul dinner.

I said, “But I have opinions!”

Just kidding. Actually I said that I’d be delighted.

You see, Yoni is the exception to my opinion. He does not speak immaturely. He speaks with tact, respect, and honor. He asks questions in a manner that shows he’s seeking instruction, and is open to being corrected. He has no gaiveh. He’s a talmid chochem.

What’s a talmid chochem? It isn’t what Artscroll says it is – I have an opinion about that. Artscroll translates talmid chochem as “Torah scholar.” But neither talmid nor chochem mean Torah or scholar. It means smart student. We know he’s a student at the moment, but how do we know he’s smart? Because it says in Pirkei Avos, “Ayzehu chochem? Halomed mikol adam.” Who is a smart person? He who learns from others.

Who does Yoni learn from? Clearly he learns from his father and his mother. It is no coincidence that David and Bonnie Sheer were honored 13 years ago, then again two years ago, and now their progeny is being honored. It is my irrefutable opinion that the Sheers are excellent parents, and tonight, in a measure, they are witnessing the fruits of their labors.

And of course, Yoni is a great goalie because he learned from watching me. Boy, that’s going to sound stupid to me five years from now.

He’s also my children’s favorite babysitter.

But we aren’t here tonight to celebrate his receptiveness, his tact, or his intelligence at such a young age. He’s actually the recipient of the avodas hakodesh award. He’s, ya know, DONE avoda to deserve it. But I think it was worth praising his middos, because the quality of his nature leads directly to an attitude of service-orientedness.

There are many things that Yoni does that we see on the surface. For example he does this at the bima . I’m not even sure what that is, but if it can actually make YItz Weiss go faster, then he deserves the award for that alone!


  • He performs various gabbai duties, including rolling sifrei torah, changing coverings for the Yomim Noraim, and serving as part time gabbai for the 2 PM Shabbos afternoon mincha.
  • He helps out at shul events: He was a hero for us at Café Tif, he’s a great sport for the annual purim shpiel, he’s an active participant in the Chanukah kids program.
  • He takes his learning seriously; he’s made many siyumim on Shvuous night.
  • He fills in as youth leader.
  • He’s a Goodness Group volunteer, visiting a young boy every Shabbos afternoon.
  • He’s active in NCSY shabbatonim.
Etc. etc. etc.

It is our tradition that when we come to the olam ha’emes we get asked some questions. Did you set aside time for Torah? Were you honest in business?

But it’s little known that in the chasidish world, when an adult meets a young person, the first question the adult usually asks is “Bist a voyl yingele?” Are you a good boy? Now I don’t know if Yoni will ever be faced with such a situation, but if he is, his answer can absolutely be, “Yes, yes I am.” I’ll be happy to ask him so he can practice.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my distinct honor and privilege to give the stage to your most deserving avodas hakodesh award winner, Mr. Yoni Sheer.