A few days ago, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau spoke via Zoom with students of the ORT Maalot Yeshiva. He was asked to convey a message to bar mitzvah boys who had to give up the big celebration because of COVID-19 fears, and said:
"For months I prepared and read the 'Shelach' Torah portion, in preparation for my bar mitzvah," said the rabbi, who came to Israel as an orphan, a refugee from the Holocaust, and grew up with his uncle. "In the synagogue in Kiryat Motzkin there was a Jew who always read the Torah, R. Moishe. The gabai'im forgot to tell him that he was exempt this coming Shabbat because there was a bar mitzvah for the child Yisrael Lau. And so while I ascend the bima on one side, he ascends on the other.
The gabai said to him: "Moishe, today you're not reading, the bar mitzvah boy is reading," When R' Moishe said, "But they didn't tell me," the gabai replied, "So now they're telling you." In response, Rabbi Moishe said: "All these years I've been reading here voluntarily, and especially now, when the synagogue is full and crowded, and guests from all over the country came in honor of a bar mitzvah of an orphaned child, a Holocaust survivor, and you're telling me to go down?" he spoke almost in tears.
"I was already standing there with the tallit on me, but I saw that he was so upset that I went to his side and said: 'R. Moishe, I'm still young, I hope I'll have many more opportunities in life to read from the Torah. I don't want to deprive you of your right. ' I got off the stage, and he is the one who read the portion on my Shabbat Bar Mitzvah."
Rabbi Lau has since been given countless opportunities to speak, read, and teach in public. He concluded the conversation as follows: "I think this was the first mitzvah I observed as a boy who committed himself to the mitzvah - the mitzvah to step aside. I saw a Jew in trouble, a Jew whose honor and dedication depend on it, when the synagogue is full. Remember: When you concede, you don't lose. Mazal tov."
From Sivan Rahav Meir's Facebook page