Saturday, May 14, 2016

Not exactly a father/son experience; I helped my father prepare for Bar Mitzvah

I’m partaking of an experience on Saturday that I suspect most people would never get the opportunity to do – my father is becoming a Bar Mitzvah.
There are slim pickings for Bar Mitzvah holiday cards

Considering that most people who are Jewish engage in this experience around age 13 when their children are some future experience whose conception hasn’t even been thought about yet, I wouldn’t be surprised at how unique this opportunity was.

IN MY CASE, my father is 72. While he and my step-mother, Cathy, have been married for 31 years, it was only about five years ago that my father converted to Judaism.

With my own niece being 13 and going through her Bat Mitzvah, the fact that my father is doing the male equivalent was seen as a gesture of support for his grand-daughter, and also a way of affirming his new identity.

So on Saturday, both my father and niece are affirming that they’re now adults, insofar as the church is concerned. They’re now fully capable of participating in their synagogue’s activities. They can no longer claim to be too young to comprehend what is taking place about them.

Which is why I actually spent some time earlier this week reviewing the speech that my father will present on Saturday to the synagogue, one in which he explains how he gradually fell away from the Catholic faith in which he was born (and which I was baptized as a mere baby and have never formally done anything to renounce).

BUT ALSO HOW he feels there are similarities to what he was taught as a boy by his grandfather so that the jump doesn’t feel like a massive earth-shattering moment.

How many people can claim to have copy-edited their father’s statement; touching up his grammar just a bit? One which I felt contained a certain honesty about his thoughts while also stating where he stands in life.

Not that I expect him to recite a batch of Hebrew on Saturday. My understanding is that the rabbi assigned him to English-speaking parts (and even a bit in Spanish). While my niece, Meira, is the one who will take on the challenge of showing she can read from the Torah and actually comprehend its meaning.

I HAVE TO admit that shopping for a Bar Mitzvah gift for one’s father is an odd experience. Even trying to pick out a card for the occasion was unique, although mostly because I came to realize how many stores that overly stock every stupid expression of holiday joy in greeting cards usually have, at most, a card or two for the Jewish holidays.

One store I stumbled into literally had only two options – one for Bar Mitzvah and one for Bat Mitzvah, and of the types of cards that were specifically designed to stuff cash into. Which strikes me as a tacky stereotype.

Although my father, himself, jokes that he expects to clean up financially at his Bar Mitzvah, perhaps regaining a share of all the cash he had to spend on me during my lifetime. A part of me is inclined to give him a card with a note in it saying I’ll try not to cost him so much money in the future.

But on a more serious note, I have to admit to trying to think about the experience from his perspective. I have to admit that the statement behind doing a Bar Mitzvah at his age is quite a commitment – particularly since I saw the amount of time he had to spend with a rabbi in preparation.

TIME THAT I’M sure he would have preferred to spend elsewhere.

I’m not sure I’d be capable of taking on such a commitment. In fact, I’m sure I wouldn’t be capable of doing this. I have to admit to having some respect bordering on pride for the man for being willing, and able, to do this.

Considering that this also is a big day for my niece, I’m sure this will be one of those days in the family history that will long be etched in our memories

It definitely will be one I will remember for the rest of my life when I think of my father. To whom I wonder if “L’chaim” is the all-too-appropriate toast for this day.


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