Friday, May 7, 2010

Rant #251: It Was 40 Years Ago Today ...

Well, not quite today, but 40 years ago, on May 9, 1970, I had my bar mitzvah.

I went into the whole situation revolving around my bar mitzvah in a previous post: the Kent State and Jackson State shootings, the aftermath, the school situation, and my health.

I won't belabor those points again.

But I do remember my bar mitzvah very, very well.

I was sick, but not as sick as I was on May 8. My parents asked me how I was doing, and I said that I was OK, certainly well enough to do my bar mitzvah speech, known as a haftorah.

It was a Saturday morning service, and I shared the dais with a friend of mine, Danny Blumenstein (who is now an attorney in New York City).

If I remember correctly, I did my haftorah first. While he did his, I felt a little wobbly, but I had to stand there while he did his. Thank goodness our haftorahs weren't that long.

As is a tradition that some families follow, his haftorah was followed by his family and friends throwing walnuts at him (I have no idea why this is a tradition.) Of course, I got pelted too, not very good as I was wobbly to begin with.

I remember nearly passing out as the walnuts hit me, and I literally left the dais and went outside for some air. My father followed me out, asked if I was OK, and I went back in to complete the service.

As is a tradition, the congregation gave both of us some gifts, including a bible, if I remember correctly.

When it was over, my parents had many friends and relatives over to our apartment for food and fun. I did not have my reception that day; it was held on May 22, due to a restriction on holding "joyous occasions" during a certain time of the year on the Jewish calendar (I can't tell you more because I really don't know more; suffice it to say that my orthodox grandparents would not have come to a reception on that day, so we didn't have one.)

When I got home, I went into my room with my friend Robert (since deceased) as all the hubbub was going on in the rest of my apartment. I remember breathing a sigh of relief, and that sigh seemed to push out all the sickness from my body. From that point on, I was fine.

It was all nerves. (Look at the picture ... that is my sister and I during the candle lighting ceremony at the reception. Look how relaxed I am--if you can't tell, take it from me, I was very relaxed that day.)

You have to understand that I was the first grandchild and great grandchild, the first son, and the first child that my parents had. Upon birth, a lot of responsibility was placed on my head. Having a boy is so important in the Jewish religion, as it is in others, as it carries on the family name until at least the next generation, and all the duties that that entails.

Well, not only did I fulfill my responsibilities by being born, but having a son myself years later continued everything on to another generation.

Anyway, I simply cannot believe that it is 40 years since this joyous occasion (and this sigh of relief). I am pretty much the same person, although I am older, balder, heavier, and a little more disgruntled with things than I was then.

But boy, what a day it was. It was one I will never, ever forget.

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