The Bar Mitzvah Ceremony through the Eyes of the Bar Mitzvah Teacher

    November 2011          
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A Bar Mitzvah Story

By Ted Roberts

Another Shabbos, another Bar Mitzvah. Such is my life. Sometimes I go as an ordinary guest. Sometimes I go as the honored Bar Mitzvah teacher. Ah, what a treat. I am overwhelmed with congratulations and tributes to my patience.

They should have seen me the afternoon I banged young David on his head with the Chumash, three times, in his dining room as we studied. (After my outburst, I kissed it three times, too!) He missed his assignment for the week. He defaulted. I know it was sacrilegious. But as I say, I smothered it with kisses. And nowhere does the Talmud prohibit such barbarous behavior.

After the Bar Mitzvah, surrounded by David's relatives full of congratulations, my answer is monotonously the same. "So easy because of David's intellect; and his eagerness to learn and his parents' cooperation. Naturally, I downplay any contribution of my own patience and skill with recalcitrant twelve year old kids.

It's a great ego inflator. And obviously a Mitzvah recorded in the Golden Book of Life, unless I bopped young David excessively. The Hertz Chumash, of course, is ideal - it weighs over two pounds.

But even with all these rewards, I pine for the old days when the hungry, bony Bar Mitzvah teacher got a warm supper and maybe a couple of shots of bourbon to replenish his spirit after a challenging session. And if he was not married: "Mr. Rabbinowitz, have you met Zelda, who won the beauty contest at Shtetle Belz?" I'm afraid those days are gone forever.

But I must explain my latest Bar Mitzvah was not a standard student. He lives in DC. He is my grandson. And we're hundreds of miles away in Huntsville, Alabama. I never used the Hertz Chumash on his little head that had indirectly inherited from me its precious cargo. His teacher was his father. A beautiful arrangement.

And I guess I must admit that if I observe 152 mitzvahs, my son, the Bar Mitzvah boy's father, observes 320. And if the temple still stood, he would honor all 613. (Do you know the old Medrash that the pomegranate was designed by the Master Designer to have 613 seeds - one for each mitzvot?)

Anyhow, the point is that this outstanding child did much davening (praying); the entire Parsha section and of course the haftorah and speech. No, I didn't teach him, but the crowd realized that the Zayde genetically makes his contribution. What if I had married that cute clerk but-never-once-went-to-shul girl in the local convenience store? What if I hadn't of attained a 152 out of 613 Mitzvah score? What if I had sent the father, my son, to a secular engineering school? No Yiddishkeit for him to pass on to this paragon of a grandson. Therefore, no Bar Mitzvah.

I reminded the crowd of my contribution as I winded my way through the festive crowd at the Saturday night party. I couldn't help mentioning that at my Bar Mitzvah the crowd had hoisted me to their shoulders and taken up a collection on the spot to send me DIRECTLY to the Yeshiva. No middle school, no high school - directly to the Yeshiva. So says my mother. And in later years who could bruise the feelings of their mother by telling that no one observed this phenomenon besides her?

The humor of Ted, the Scribbler on the Roof, appears in newspapers around the US, on National Public Radio, and numerous web sites.


from the November 2011 Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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