A bar mitzvah begins in the delivery room. In our case, it started at around 4:48 a.m., when a diminutive boy squeezed his way into this world and a father had a thought about his son’s future.
As I witnessed the birth of my son Noah, I recall thinking that one day, 13 years from now, this little fella would stand before the Jewish community in all its splendour and pledge his allegiance to it. That thought seemed to capture the entire continuum of life, from start to finish.
As the umbilical chord was severed, my depth of appreciation and understanding of God grew. Everything had changed. I was no longer one. I had a son and he was free to begin life.
After the maternity ward experience ended, thoughts of the bar mitzvah dissipated. After all, there were diapers to change and other things to do. They started to resurface, however, about 11 years later. Like many families, I had not reserved a date for that special weekend when he was five, so I set about doing so.
A bar mitzvah teacher is key to this growing-up process. We chose Sadie Domb, who was well worth it. Just like in the delivery room, I was teary-eyed when Noah uttered the prayer Barechu and the haftarah trope for the first time. It was then that I remembered his birth.
Now we are three months away from the bar mitzvah. Plans are being made. The caterer is developing a Mexican-vegan menu for the luncheon and I’ve ordered wait staff. My sister, Chavi, bought Noah and I kippot in Israel for the special day and I have a document that says I can serve spirits, wine and beer. Chances are there will be minimal adult drinks available, however, as we are not imbibers.
But as we get closer to the event, what really touches me is that my boy is an amazing kid. His 12-year-old awareness reflects a deep sensitivity to life. Noah wonders about the human condition. He considers how one instance or action plays off another, particularly when they are not directly connected. The other day, Noah stated how interesting it was that a man we knew from Detroit, who just passed away at 94, shared only six short days on earth with a child who was born into our family in Toronto. His point spoke to the cycle of life and touched on his recognition of a particular continuum that exists around us. Noah pieced together a poignant thought about two very divergent people who will never know one another, but somehow had a connection – in his mind, an important one.
And then I got it: at a bar mitzvah, we celebrate the development of a child’s consciousness, so that his clarity of life becomes rooted in greater complexity of thought, which leads to action.
Noah now has a history. He has experiences that help his ripe mind see the world in a way he could not have previously. He is a bar mitzvah because of that, because the world around him is no longer quite as one-dimensional.
Noah’s bar mitzvah is upon us. Soon he will be a man and the delivery room will be left behind us, just a little bit more.