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From birth to bar mitzvah

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Bar mitzvah boy reads from the torah. FILE PHOTO
Bar mitzvah boy reads from the torah. FILE PHOTO

“He’s healthy. Your child is a boy.” When the doctor said these words to me on April 24, 2006, what I happily heard with great relief was, “He has 10 fingers and 10 toes. Mom and baby are fine.” And then I heard, ‘One day, not so far off, will be your boy’s bar mitzvah.”

When my son, Noah, was two, there was little to think about regarding his bar mitzvah. I knew that one day it would come, but I was busy chasing my boy around the room while he joyfully broke apart huge pieces of Lego. Eleven years seemed like an eternity and I instinctively knew it was not yet time to book the caterer for the big event.

Age five arrived, thank God, and it was significant. Noah entered into a French immersion program and before I knew it, he could converse better than me. Judaism was a part of our lives. Friday night included Kiddush, ha-Motzi and my father’s zemirot. We set out to find a shul, a task we struggled with. Despite the nagging voice in my head saying that I must book something, or he wouldn’t get the right Shabbat, I did not book a date for the little guy’s bar mitzvah.

Noah’s bar mitzvah continued to be a distant dream. It was as if I was reaching out for the rainbow following a downpour (something I do), but not quite touching it.

Then one day Noah turned 10.  According to the United Nations Population Fund, Noah was one of 125-million 10-year-olds around the world. However, he was one of the lucky ones, as 89 per cent of his contemporaries lived in less developed regions.

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Noah had a bunch of buddies and they were becoming far weightier in his world. Fractions and pronouns took centre stage in his life and he was developing a very acute awareness of tikun olam (repairing the world).

By 10, my little man knew that less-fortunate people were living on the street and he cared deeply about animals. But three years, the time separating us from his eventual Jewish right of passage, continued to be distant in our minds. The venue had still not been secured. We had time, at least this is what I told myself.

Eleven came with its pre-teen awkwardness. Zach Hyman, a Jewish Toronto Maple Leafs player, made Noah proud. And it was then that the pictures of my bar mitzvah in 1973 that were sitting on our bookshelf seemed to yell out, ‘OK, it’s time. Pull it together. Soon Noah will be a man.”

And we did. During his eleventh year, we secured the services of a talented and highly innovative bar mitzvah teacher, Sadie Domb-Beube. Noah turned 12 and the lessons began.

We created a strategy for the year that included scheduling monthly Shabbat dinners with different folks in our community who were willing to share their knowledge with Noah about different aspects of Judaism, Torah and Israel. Similarly, we sought out chesed programs that Noah could partake in, such as visiting seniors, in order to bring some happiness to their lives.

Noah’s parashah is Kedoshim. It includes the imperative to “love the stranger.” The venue? TBD. The Kiddush and luncheon will be vegan, which is in accordance with Noah and his mother’s lifestyle. We’re now trying to figure out how a vegan animal activist can put on leather tefillin.

One day, Noah will celebrate his bar mitzvah. And that one day has almost arrived. Mazel tov on this gift from God.