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Doctor to celebrate 50th anniversary of Bar Mitzvah

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Gary Boxer at age 13.

Judaism is a faith that puts as much emphasis on study as it does on prayer, and in doing so encourages each person’s religious path to be a complex, personal and lifelong journey.

Jews are often called the Chosen People, but in reality all were given the opportunity to take on the commandments as the guidelines for a good and moral life. The Jewish people are the Choosing People, a people who elect each day to honor the teachings and the history of the faith with prayer and study. 

Gary Boxer today.

When Gary Boxer chose to become a Bar Mitzvah in 1966, he was given a Torah portion, Vayyeshev. He was also called upon to deliver his d’var Torah, examining the passage he had just chanted and giving his teenage perspective on the message of Joseph and his brothers, Joseph’s dreams, and his exile into the land of Egypt. Thirteen-year-old Gary wrote about the psychological aspect of dreams and their interpretation, how they impacted Joseph’s life journey, and ultimately the realization that Joseph’s dream analysis was relevant to the examination of dreams by modern day psychiatrists. Now 63, Gary is a successful child psychiatrist and teacher of medicine, a career he chose long after writing his Bar Mitzvah speech.

Fifty years later, Gary discovered his original speech while organizing a box of childhood artifacts. Upon reading the words, Gary — a child psychiatrist in Lee’s Summit and associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Missouri-Kansas City — found himself newly aware that his career path seemed guided as much by destiny as it was by the professional and academic decisions of his later years. He then made the very Jewish decision to re-examine the Torah portion with new eyes, using a lens colored by his years as student, doctor, husband, father, grandfather and teacher. Opening the door to his past with a simple reading of his 13-year-old thoughts on Joseph and his dreams suddenly made Gary’s life’s path feel bashert, meant to be.

At 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 24, at The Temple, Congregation B’nai Jehudah, Dr. Gary Boxer will stand once again to chant the same portion, Vayyeshev, and deliver a d’var Torah. This time he serves not just as a representative of the future of the Jewish people, but also as an established and cherished leader of generations of Jews and doctors who carry his teachings with them as they forge their own Jewish path.