By Rabbi Yitzie Ross

Q. My son is extremely resistant to writing thank you cards. Now that his bar mitzvah has passed, he says he wants to call the people and thank them since it’s more personal and saves time. It seems to me that he’s just being lazy, but I’m wondering if this is a battle worth fighting.


A. What’s a thank you card? I’m kidding, of course. I deal with a lot of bar mitzvah boys, and I’ve heard all their complaints: “It’s boring and annoying.” “Why can’t people just give a gift and I’ll say thank you at the bar mitzvah?” These days we live in an age of electronics and instant gratification. Writing thank you letters is, as one of my talmidim put it, “monotonous.”

Hakaras ha’tov is one of the cornerstones of Yiddishkeit. We make berachos to thank Hashem all the time, and one of the first things that a child learns is to say “Modeh Ani” in the morning. If children learn to say “thank you” at a young age, they mature faster and learn to appreciate others. Not only will parents appreciate this, but it’s a great tool for marriage.

Another aspect is that handwriting is slowly becoming a lost art, a thing of the past. As we rely more and more on computers and electronic media, having good penmanship is not emphasized. Even the kids who have nice handwriting don’t usually have the patience to write for an extended period of time. This brings us back to your question.

Is it worth the battle? I don’t think so. I’ve heard of bar mitzvah boys paying their siblings to write the thank you letters for them, which is a fair compromise. It teaches the bar mitzvah boy the importance of saying thank you, and the recipients won’t know the difference. I once got a typed thank you letter, and I thought that was quite odd. Yes, the boy signed it on the bottom, but it felt wrong.

However, your son has offered a great alternative, in my opinion. He’s showing that he understands the importance of hakaras ha’tov, and he is taking the initiative. Many boys would just say, “I don’t want to write them,” and yet he’s giving you a solution. Not only that, but it’s a creative solution. It seems very personal; I wouldn’t be insulted if a bar mitzvah boy called me to thank me for a present.

Obviously, there must be some ground rules. No leaving messages. No texting. Calls should have some substance (“Thank you so much for the beautiful watch! I wear it on Shabbos and I really like it!”). He must speak slowly and clearly and make sure that it sounds sincere.

People may disagree with this, and they are entitled to their opinions. As you pointed out in your question, it’s all about choosing battles. If your son is coming to you with a viable solution, I think it’s important to at least acknowledge his attempt, and discuss it.

As a side point, I’ve noticed that I usually get thank you cards quite a few months after the event. It’s understandable, since most bar mitzvah boys are quite busy with yeshiva and homework. According to a few people I’ve spoken with, one year is the limit.

Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a well-known rebbe and parenting adviser. To sign up for the weekly e‑mails and read the comments, visit


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here