To my Chezi,

Happy Chanukah, my son. It's not your first Chanukah, but this is the first time you are old enough to understand a thing or two about what's going on. Since last year, you learned that fire is "haaa" and that spinning a dreidel will yield more enjoyment than eating it. Milestones my boy.

Oh Chezi, how we adore you. As you have become acutely aware, you were born into a family of girls. Your three older sisters dote and fuss over you without end. I've had to actually hold "a gathering of the four mothers" to discuss disciplinary action for you, my dear, just to make sure we were all on the same page. Sometimes, I imagine you reflecting on your earlier years and thinking, "I knew the bigger one who nursed me was actually my mother, but the other three were so convincing."

You need to balance that strength, temper it with a little tendernessYou seem to take it all in stride, my son.

From the moment you arrived on this earthly scene, your Abba and I sensed your strength. Even before you were born, your endless kicking was already proof of it. But your strength really began to hit home during the birth of all ten pounds of you. You were born looking like a five-month-old line-backer. Everything about you suggested strength and power – and that's where the inspiration for your first name came in. Yechezkel. Literally, "G‑d will strengthen." It seems I was blessed with a bit of prophecy in the choosing of your name, because something in me said that you would need to balance that strength throughout your life, temper it with a little tenderness. Hence your second name, Lev, heart. We hope you will grow into that aspect of yourself in spades.

Then I thought, well, you've already got two names, I might as well go for it and turn your whole name into a sentence, really round you out — so we added the name Tzion, Zion. Yechezkel Lev-Tzion, "G‑d will strengthen the heart of Zion." You are our prayer, my son, our prayer, and our gift to the world. Our deepest wish is that you use your strength to lift up your people, to strengthen us.

I always knew about the Maccabees, that small Jewish army that defeated the all-mighty Greek army. I've learned about their strength, their unwavering sense of purpose and sacrifice, their total commitment to G‑d and the Jewish people, and their victory. Those boys have always awed me. But never more so than now. Now that I know what it feels like to have a son. A son who, I know, will inevitably leave me to pursue his own destiny and wage his own battles for good over evil.

As our first son, you will be our first solider. As long as there is still a need for defense of our glorious nation, the people of Israel, we will encourage you to do your part with heart and with soul. I don't like the idea; to be perfectly honest with you, it terrifies me, but I also understand that this is your duty and your right as a son born to Israel.

I pray that whatever level of contribution you may offer to the State of Israel and to the people of Zion, that it is done in the way of the Maccabees; that your direction is always clear, your motivation and your means, holy. I pray only for the peace of this Land in its entirety. But at the same time, I understand, as the Maccabees did, that often we must fight for peace, fight for our basic human right to live unencumbered as Jews in our Land.

I pray that by the time you read this, there will be no need for an army, that we will be living in a Messianic time, where none of that holy bravado is necessary. In whatever capacity your strength will be needed, I pray you use it in the pursuit of G‑dliness.

As our first son, you will be our first solider I look at you now: ginger-colored hair, big saucer eyes, and little dimpled elbows. I see my baby boy. The one who makes my heart swoon with love, so much that sometimes I think I might just burst from the joy of you. I see you throwing things with an awesome force when you don't get your way. I see you running to me for protection when our turtle gets too close to your toes. And at the same time, I see your future. I see you growing up, towering over me, singing your bar mitzvah portion with your father at your side. I see you storming in through the front door with a army of hungry friends, and I see your lev, your heart, shining its way through you, illuminating yourself and everything around you.

There are some things that a mother just knows. I know that regardless of what you choose to do, you are capable of great things. I know that your strength is a gift and we pray that you use it for good. I pray with an intensity I did not know I was capable of, that G‑d should protect you in all that you do, that He keep you safe and healthy always. I pray that He watch over you and bless all your days with beauty, awe, and joy.

I pray that He gives me the strength to let you become the man you are intended to be.

As this Chanukah approaches, I read again about the martyrs in this epic Chanukah story. I learn about Yehudit, Judah and his brothers, and about Chana and her seven sons. I read how in her deepest display of self-sacrifice, Chana allowed her seven sons to give their lives for the sanctification of G‑d's name.

I'll tell you right now, my son, I am no Chana.

I beg G‑d, "Do not test Your mothers. Please, protect our sons and daughters from all harm; mind, body and soul. Give us the opportunity to teach our children to sanctify Your Great and Holy name through kindness and mercy."

And from you, Yechezkel Lev-Tzion, I beg of you to use your gifts. You were given many. Use your strength to bring light and love to Zion. Give us nachat, joy, my son.

Lots and lots of nachat.

Happy Chanukah,