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Yesterday, He Was A Man

. . . but only in the very, very technical sense of the word.

I spent a rather nice weekend in Philadelphia at my cousin's bar mitzvah. It was pretty impressive. The first, and most important, thing is that he did a great job. I know that my cousin (let us nickname him. . . Boromir is good.) was most emphatically not excited about doing this. He has always hated going to Hebrew school, he's never been good at Hebrew, and the thought of getting dressed up in a suit and reading the Torah in front of a synagogue full of his family and people he didn't care about moved him not at all. But it was important to . . . I guess we should call him Uncle Denethor, though the only point of resemblance is the fact of having two sons. It was important to his father, and by God, Cousin Boromir went through it. He wore the suit (he looked like a junior businessman), he learned his Torah portion, and he got up there and chanted all the way through with no mistakes. The rabbi was smarmy and the cantor was smarmier, but Cousin Boromir delivered the goods.

He didn't just learn to chant Lech Lecha word-perfect, either. In preparation for the b'nei mitzvah, the kids have to do a project involving at least thirteen hours of community service. There's a lot of generic projects out there -- the girl who was becoming bat mitzvah at the same service did a couple of those. But Cousin Boromir actually put some thought into his bar mitzvah project. He did some fundraising projects for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, an issue that he cares about, since his little brother, Cousin Faramir, has CF. This is why, despite the fact that he was a nervous, standoffish kid who is deep in the throes of adolescence, I've always really liked Cousin Boromir. He's a boy's boy in that he'll never tell you how he feels about something, but he'll show you, often in surprisingly heartfelt ways.

After the service, we had the traditional long lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Dad Pony was especially pleased by this. He claims he only came because Uncle Denethor promised Chinese food. Little Sister Pony brought her boyfriend, who kept Dad Pony entertained for quite a long while with a discussion of the legal issued involved with affordable middle-income housing. They were talking animatedly about this through the salad and the entrée. Also at the table was one of Uncle Denethor's nephews, who is my age and newly married. He kept making all these approving remarks to Little Sister Pony, about what a great job Boyfriend was doing in the tough situation of Conversing With The Dad. This is why we like Boyfriend.

We finished off the day with a party for Cousin Boromir's school friends. Aunt Finduilas had pretty much used this party as a bribe to get Boromir to go through with the bar mitzvah, and boy did she deliver! There were about sixty-five kids at the Germantown Jewish Centre, along with parents, aunts, uncles and cousins to chaperone. I have to say, the best time to be at a thirteen-year-old's party is when you are well over thirteen and don't have to worry any more about being cool. The DJ was fantastic -- he knew exactly how to deal with the kids, and they were surprisingly well behaved. At the end of the day, Cousin Boromir cleaned up. Apparently, he was totalling his gifts early this morning, and netted a cool $3,411. I told him to enjoy it, because it was probably the last time in his life that people would pay him so handsomely for the privilege of attending his party.

In other news, the TSA sucks hairy monkey balls. But we knew that.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
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frenchpony
Nov. 6th, 2006 12:57 pm (UTC)
It is a very strange thing in life that religious confirmations come at a time when people could not be less interested in religion and adult hierarchies. I think that Reform Judaism has dropped the requirement that the bar mitzvah boy actually stand up and say the words "Today, I am a man." My guess is that this might be because it's so patently ridiculous to hear a thirteen-year-old boy say that in this day and age. Cousin Boromir has a great heart underneath his prickly exterior, but he's still a kid, and everyone knows it.

That's why I gave him a Punching Rabbi puppet instead of money. According to Uncle Denethor, he was ecstatic when he opened it.
perelleth
Nov. 6th, 2006 11:15 am (UTC)
Congratulations to cousin Boromir, he seems a promosing young man, ready to suffer a suit and reading aloud before an audience because it is importat to his father. That sounds good, and moving and al. A blissful family moment, I bet!

He's a boy's boy in that he'll never tell you how he feels about something, but he'll show you, often in surprisingly heartfelt ways LOL. My eldest nephew is only ten, but he's already ike that. I so enjoy having him around!
frenchpony
Nov. 6th, 2006 01:00 pm (UTC)
Dad Pony, who has always preferred little girls, took a long time to warm up to Cousin Boromir. Eventually, they bonded over this WWII video game that Dad Pony likes to play. It's all about Doing Things with boys. I think one of the reasons that I've liked Cousin Boromir from the beginning is that he's always been fun to play with.

And he will happily go see "Lord of the Rings" or "Narnia" with me and debate them for a while afterwards.
ns_tulkas
Nov. 6th, 2006 04:47 pm (UTC)
I gotta say, your account of a Bar Mitzva is the most entertaining I ever sat through. It almost made up for the traumatizing memory of my Bat Mitzva.

My little brother Chagai is having his this summer, and boy is he excited! Probably more about the presents, but he's also into all that religious stuff so he doesn't mind so much.
frenchpony
Nov. 6th, 2006 07:51 pm (UTC)
Did you do the whole community service deal, or was it just an ordinary service except you were reading and making a speech?

Dad Pony was comparing this event to his bar mitzvah, where, so he claims, there was no sense that it was a particularly special occasion. My guess is that this is an attitude that's generally changed over time since he was thirteen. Lots of things have. As I keep telling him, "Dad, this isn't your father's Reform Judaism."
meggins
Nov. 6th, 2006 08:06 pm (UTC)
A Punching Rabbi puppet? Oh, Pony! Everyone should have a relative like you.

Congratulations to your Cousin Boromir. Popular media tends to focus on the party aspect of a bar mitzvah, and, of course, I had some idea of the religious/ceremonial meaning of it, but your account brought the "public performance" aspect to the forefront. I'd never thought of that before. It must be torture for some kids. So, congratulations again to B. for not just surviving it but doing it justice.

(I must say, I really do like the community service component. Even generic projects must raise some awareness, and every now and then someone like your cousin will come along and do something truly meaningful.)
frenchpony
Nov. 7th, 2006 04:29 am (UTC)
I saw the Punching Rabbi in a head shop several months ago, and I knew instantly that it was the perfect bar mitzvah present. Sometimes, life throws softballs like that.

Yeah, all performers like to say that they're "available for weddings and bar mitzvahs." But before the party, one must have the actual bar mitzvah. You gotta stand up and say your piece, even if you never do so again. I was so proud of Boromir. He was so nervous beforehand, he wanted to throw up, but then he just walked up on the bimah, straight and (relatively) tall, and pulled off Lech Lecha with grace and style. What a kid!
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