These little girls are dancing at their cousin Judah's Bar Mitzvah. It happened Saturday and was quite wonderful. At a service that morning Judah read the entire portion of the Torah - long and intricate - in Hebrew in a loud, confident voice. As he finished, the 12 and 13-year-old boys who are his friends stormed down the center aisle of the synagogue to congratulate him and shake his hand – recognizing and celebrating his new status.
Once again, I was struck by the value of religious observances to give our lives shape and meaning – and by how much this simple fact still astonishes me. The rite of passage -- an adolescent reading from the Torah before the congregation, is fraught with meaning. It's an acknowledgement of impending adulthood and, even more critically, of entry into the covenant among the Jewish people. I love it.
Each part of the day was tied to learning (another lesson on this journey – you don’t study, you “learn”. ) A talk by the young Bar Mitzvah on the Torah portion he had just read, talks during lunch and through the afternoon, by uncles, cousins and more. At the evening party, father and son spent close to an hour talking through the final part of a complicated set of writings. Throughout, we were reminded that great though parties and presents might be, what matters most is the move toward becoming, each day, a better and holier person.
As we listened to the teaching, father and son trading riffs on the material, a friend, sitting beside me, leaned over and said “You aren’t as far as you think from all this. Your great grandparents, and mine, were doing this. And now you’ve returned to it.” Blew me away.
This beautiful day, and the loving, welcoming family that had included us in their celebration, offered a great privilege. Together we welcomed a new member of tribe, celebrated his family and shared their pride. Dancing, singing and, with delight, watching everyone spinning through the music and happiness, we reminded ourselves, and one another, of a treasured heritage – one that this young man’s celebration joins as the next link in the chain.