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Saying Chai to the 18-year-old bar mitzvah

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Saying Chai to the 18-year-old bar mitzvah photo

When I was 13, I knew nothing. In fact, when it was 13 minutes ago I knew nothing. Even more in fact, when I started writing this sentence, I had no idea how it would triangle fish button. See? Knew nothing. The point is that when it came to my own bar mitzvah, I wasn’t aware enough to appreciate it for what it was. Hence, and I’ve felt this way for many years, I would have loved to have had the option to have my bar mitzvah at the ripe old age of 18. And while a lot of the following involves the celebration side to the whole thing, at the core it’s the reason for having that celebration, becoming a Bar mitzvah, which I wish I could do over again. Therefore, I urge you to at least say chai to the idea.

When it comes to my bar mitzvah, there is one thing that always comes to mind first. During my younger years, basically pre-chai, I wasn’t as social. At best I was a self-proclaimed introverted extrovert. And while many of the other mitzvahs of the bar and bat variety that I attended had a healthy mix of boys and girls, mine was sadly skewed. For when it came to the amount of girls at my own bar mitzvah, I only had…care to make a guess? Anyone?


Yup. Two. I can count that on one finger if I’m counting knuckles. So needless to say, I was a playa’. Now I have to mention that my fast dancing did, and still does, frighten the hell out of people. So I was lucky enough to slow dance with one of them. However, the media had a field day with this. Hence I have a slew of delightfully awkward pictures of me dancing with said girl in my bar mitzvah book. Her hands on my shoulders. Mine on her waist. About three feet between us.

Not only was the media there but also the entire extent of my extended family. In fact I have a very large extended family. Jews often do. And at the time, I really couldn’t tell you who half the people watching me try to keep my hormones in check while slow dancing were. Five years later that wouldn’t have been a problem. My bar mitzvah day was rough in that regard. I had to have my mom help me figure out everyone’s name. “Okay, who was that?” “Your brother.” “You sure?”

And to this day, I still get upset with myself about one particular item more than anything. The thank-you notes. Oh, yes. The thank-you notes. I wasn’t happy about having to do them. You could almost say I was less than thrilled. I wanted to put them off until somehow they got done by themselves. I wish I could go back and slap my 13-year-old self in the face and call him a selfish nincompoop. How in my right mind could I ever begin to complain about having to write a small, measly, yet heartfelt, thank-you note to each wonderful person who gave me a small check for doing something I didn’t entirely understand? It was the least I could do. Well, I suppose the least I could have done was nothing. But I received an abundance of checks with chais, double chais, quadruple chais and maybe even a few dodecadupel chais that I should have given so much more back. Being older would have helped me to appreciate that fact and who knows, maybe I would’ve taken the time to go to everyone’s place and thank them individually, cause that’s just the kind of guy I am.

Now for a serious paragraph. Okay, let’s be honest. Now for an as serious as I can get paragraph. I recently came back from a Birthright trip (which you should all go on if you haven’t and this may be the most serious thing in the serious paragraph) and when we were in Jerusalem, four of our group received the amazing privilege of having their own bar or bat mitzvah. At 13, the idea of even going to Israel had barely touched my mind. What an ignorant young man I was! What I’m getting at is the amazing envy I have for those lucky few who were able to do this. But it is a very happy envy as I truly couldn’t have felt better to at the very least be at a b’nai mitzvah in the Holy Land. I mean, having that privilege in Israel is astounding to me. I could have never thought that would have been something I would have wanted at 13. When I was that young, I could have never fathomed going to Israel as I was still scared to go to downtown Chicago, as ridiculous as that sounds. Given my experience in Israel, I wish I had the chance to have had the wherewithal to want to make it there for my bar mitzvah.

And you know, I haven’t even mentioned the brilliance of having a var mitzvah at18. I mean, hello! Or, chai! (Gotta stop that joke) Chai means 18 in case you missed the pun in the title and the sheer connection of that to the age of a b’nai mitzvah feels prefect. In general, at 18 you know your friends and your family a lot better.. Not to mention that the “themes,” and for some reason there are “themes,” would be so much better and actually attribute to the personality of the individual. No longer would I have to tell everyone that I chose a Power Rangers themed bar mitzvah because it was “morphin’ time into an adult.” But the one thing I might be most upset about, and I had a lot of time to go on this one, was that I didn’t even get to take advantage of the open bar. Although I guess I would have had to have been 21 and not only 18 for that one. Aw crap. I’m gonna have to rewrite this entire blog.

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