Like most teenagers in Kenya, I holidayed every year in Mombasa on the coast of the Indian Ocean. Unlike most teenagers, I would wander off alone into the still, tropical nights to watch the moon rise. Barefoot, I threaded my way through the whispering palms that surrounded the little bungalows of the holiday resort where my parents and I always stayed. The soft, incessant thud of surf hitting the coral reef filled my ears. A warm wind blew in from the ocean carrying the smell of salt and a promise of the future.

I reached my favorite lookout point and perched on the old but sturdy brick wall built onto the edge of the cliff overhanging the beach. Before me lay the black ocean. A dark, swirling mass of waves rolling rhythmically in and out, it seemed to mock time by being part of forever.

Depending on the time of the month, either a crescent of the moon or a whole silvery orb would nudge its way into the velvet sky. Rising slowly, it would cast a path of molten silver over the waves. As it rose higher, the path grew wider and longer. Inevitably, I would reach out over the edge of the cliff to feel the spray of the waves and to see the moonlight reflected off my fingernails. I closed my palm to grasp the silver rays, but the light was far, far away; it belonged to another world. A world I could not yet reach. Yet despite this, my essence always felt connected to Something greater than me and I came away inspired by the soft light. Walking back to the bungalow, I felt the ocean breeze still blowing, full of salt and the hint of a future replete with light.

Eventually, I left the moonlit beaches behind me and traveled to Israel where I married and merited to raise a family. Through the deliciously hectic years of child raising, I find myself searching for flashes of light that, like lightening on a stormy night, brighten the landscape and show me the direction to travel: the first smile of a baby which so often seems to come after a night interrupted by screams of colic; the yellow glow of Shabbat candles after a frenetic marathon of cooking and cleaning; the bashful grin of a growing boy as he rushes off to meet his friends to catch tadpoles.

These flashes of light invariably leave me feeling invigorated and secure about the importance of my role as a Jewish wife and mother. More than that: if I listen carefully to the rhythm of my soul, these streaks of light also leave me feeling more connected to my Creator.

Last night, I not only saw a stream of light; I hugged the moonlight that used to elude me all those years ago on the beach of the Indian Ocean. It was at my six-year-old son's Chumash party.

In first grade, Jewish boys start to learn the text of the Torah. Torah portion by Torah portion, they systematically work their way through the Five Books of Moses reading, singing with the traditional trop, memorizing, and understanding. When the boys have completed two or three of the portions, they celebrate their achievement at a party with the rabbis who taught them, their parents, and their grandparents.

My son Yaakov had showered and dressed himself for the party two full hours before it started. When it was finally time for him to leave the house, I made him take off his older brother's pants and put on his own. Then I gave him a sandwich, which, between bites, he assured me he couldn't possibly eat. Finally, as I zipped up his coat, I prayed that this would be the first of many celebrations he would hold in honor of the Torah he had learnt.

At the hall, thirty three little boys marched up to the staggered benches and tables, but I could see only one. The tall, intricately crafted blue and gold paper crown pushed tightly down on Yaakov's sidelocks, holding the blond curls firmly in place behind his ears, where he liked them. A matching blue and gold tie, complete with the logo of his school, bounced up and down on his chest as he skipped, hopped, and bumped into the boy in front of him. Finally the boys were at their seats.

I waved and smiled; Yaakov waved back. I waved again and smiled a wider smile, trying to shape six years' worth of love and pride into the curve of my lips. Here was the baby who had never kept still long enough for me to hug him as much as I had longed to. The toddler who had run before he walked, who had demanded a morning walk even before I had finished eating breakfast. The two-year-old who always tore his pants and wore holes in his socks twice as fast as his brother did. The little boy who, when he had a fever, clasped his chubby hands together under his chin and curled up, quiet for once, to go to sleep. The boy who had carried a dead bird into the kitchen and asked if I would help him bury it. Here stood a six-year-old boy who knows the Torah portions better than I do.

The boys sang a song pleading with G‑d to enable them to always learn Torah. In a second song, they thanked their parents for encouraging them to strive forward and pledged to actualize their hopes and dreams. They sang stridently, full of life and vitality, sometimes keeping time with the music and often not. As the notes bounced off the walls of the hall, I pulled out my packet of tissues. Moments like these should not be lost: surely the Gates of Heaven are opened wide for our prayers and hopes to rush inside. Please G‑d, I prayed, help us guide these boys to grow into the pride of your Nation.

Next, an examiner, a stout, venerable rabbi with a square grey beard and peppered sidelocks that danced determinedly and interminably because he never stood still, tested the boys individually. I'm sure that every mother and father prayed that their son would know the answer to his question; I'm also sure that every mother and father prayed for every single boy.

The rabbi moved through the rows questioning and encouraging the boys. "What did G‑d create on the fifth day?" When the boy answered correctly, the rabbi patted his cheek. "What are the names of the rivers that encircle the Garden of Eden?" A correct answer warranted a jump from the rabbi. After a few more questions, the rabbi assured them that they knew more than he had known on his wedding day. "How many kings fought with Abraham and what were their names?"

When he asked them if they wanted harder questions, they unanimously yelled "Yes." Delighted, the rabbi danced a set of steps that the most accomplished choreographer would want to copy. After another few questions, the rabbi started to recite a few verses from the Torah portions at random and the boys continued singing in the traditional tune. The rabbi, now ecstatic, began to fire questions at the class as a whole. The pace was heady and some boys jumped up excitedly, while the quieter ones put up their hands and waved frantically, waiting to be called on. Finally, the rabbi's questions came to an end.

The author’s son at his Chumash Party
The author’s son at his Chumash Party
Then it was time for the boys to approach the rabbi of the neighborhood and receive a new Chumash covered in silver paper. I watched my son walk up, shake the rabbi's hand and return to his seat, his Chumash held tight. Barely had he sat down, and the silver covered Chumash was open in front of him. Head bent intently over the holy words, he read from the Torah portions he had spent four months learning. He adjusted his blue and gold crown, which had begun to slip forward and glanced up momentarily.

I thought he would scan the hall, search for my smile. But then I realized that his eyes were focused beyond me. They glittered with sparks of light that connected him all the way back to Mount Sinai and to the highest Source of all. He bent his head down again: a six-year-old boy enwrapped in the Torah he had toiled over, savoring the holy words upon which he had staked a claim. I watched him until lively music started up, calling all the fathers to hoist their sons onto their shoulders and dance in a large circle.

Before Yaakov raced to his father, I waved to him and he came running towards me. Then I hugged the moonlight I had seen rising above the Indian Ocean so many years ago. Now it was finally a part of me.