Sunday, May 14, 2006


Yesterday, I helped our friends Steve and Sue celebrate their son Sam’s Bar Mitzvah.

Sam is the youngest of four children, all of whom were spaced two years apart. Girl, boy, girl, boy. It certainly made travel planning easier starting in 2000: if it was an even-numbered year, there was going to be a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Northern Virginia.

I don’t get to sit back and loaf at these affairs, no, no. This time I had the honor - and responsibility - of reading three aliyot - which is to say, three of the seven chunks into which the Shabbat Torah reading is sliced. Not a job for the faint of heart, as the Hebrew is read directly from a handwritten parchment scroll which contains no vowels, punctuation, or musical notation; each word must be pronounced correctly and chanted according to a specific melodic scheme. Advance preparation is required.

But the benefit of all this work was the opportunity to stand before the congregation at the reading table with my friends Steve and Sue next to me, as they were called up for their aliyah - the honor of saying the blessings over a portion of the reading. A few minutes later it was Sam’s turn to be called up, a symbolic recognition of his accession to the religious responsibilities of an adult Jewish male.

Sam, as the youngest, was always the mischief maker, the imp of the family. Cute as hell, a little guy with an engaging smile. Not a little guy any more, he is. Over the past two years, he has shot up vertically, becoming a slender, gangly youth, taller than his Dad and damn near as tall as me. Athletic, too.

It was a real “Sunrise, Sunset” moment.

After a sleepy afternoon, we headed back to the synagogue. Steve and Sue, as has been their practice, eschew over-the-top receptions with all and sundry in attendance. Their philosophy is that this is mainly an event for young people, and so they build their event around those young people. There in the social hall, we had (along with eighty or so of Sam’s friends) the obligatory deejay, along with light snacky stuff. Plenty of party supplies, too: glittery, flashy crap, glow-stick necklaces, all the stuff that adds an extra dimension to Acting Nutty.

But we grown-ups had our own amusements. As the kids enjoyed their party, Steve and I enjoyed a few knocks of 18-year-old Glenlivet and a couple of Cohiba robustos. Cuban, of course.
Yep: We’re the guys that put the “Heeb” in “Cohiba.” Not to mention the “Bar” in “Bar Mitzvah.”

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