I went to a relative’s bar mitzvah today and found myself mildly fascinated by the totality of the event. While I did not stay for the reception/dinner, I was at the service, held at a Jewish Community Center in New Jersey.
What was found?
- Being around adults and a small kid all the time, thirteen-year old boys and girls look, to me, a bit like weird eight-year olds. They all have that funny, estranged look of angst and cynicism on their faces but their bodies themselves are essentially twigs with sticks coming out where their extremities shoud be.
- For some reason, the boys all sat in the same row and the girls all sat in another row. There seemed to be little if any contact between the two rows. When I was thirteen, we did this, too. Little did I know that at this age, I probably would have had more luck with the ladies than three short years later when I actually wanted “luck.”
- The bar mitzvah boy did a stellar job of reading from the Torah. However, back in the day, I had to read about three or four times that amount of text. I don’t know if this is a measure of current attention spans, the time of day (5:30 p.m.), or a new custom but he got off easy.
- I was impressed that the Hebrew school he had attended required all students there to work with a community organization as part of their learning process. He chose to work with a group that helps physically challenged kids play sports and will continue to work with them throughout this year.
- The bar mitzvah itself was a kind of non-event. And yet, in America, it does truly mark one’s mild transition to adulthood and adult responsibility. I found it odd that a one-hour service could have the stature of major transformation. And then I remembered that marriage, childbirth, and going to a funeral can all take place within a matter of one solitary hour.