I put on a button-down shirt today for the first time since March 13. It was for a good cause.
My nephew had his bar-mitzvah this morning. He’s been trying to do that since not long after I put the button-downs aside for more appropriate quarantine wear. After the original ceremony was canceled it was rescheduled for November when everyone figured that the can-do public spirit of Americans would surely have this coronavirus problem in check. Then when that turned out to be, um, wishful thinking on every single level, the November ceremony was canceled as well.
So I have now been to my very first virtual bar-mitzvah. While the food afterward was singularly less impressive – you haven’t fully lived until you’ve experienced a full-court-press bar-mitzvah reception, and nothing in my own kitchen is going to come up to that standard – the ceremony itself was rather nice.
We all logged in and got ourselves ready, and then the rabbi started her welcome and off we went.
I don’t understand Hebrew, being of the goyische persuasion, but most of it was translated in the booklet that you could get to online and it was generally positive the way these ceremonies tend to be. Welcome to the tribe. Now you’re an adult. Let’s have a few moments to remember the larger community. Things like that – things we all need to be reminded of now and then.
One of the things I always like about these ceremonies is that there is a certain amount of history. My nephew wore the same prayer shawl that his cousins, mother, and aunt wore and that their grandfather wore before them. As a historian I love that sort of thing. That and the star of the day has to give a reading and a talk explaining it, which emphasizes the whole “now you’re an adult” thing.
Kurt Vonnegut always maintained that Western culture has largely done away with adulthood ceremonies and we’re poorer for it, so it’s nice to see one survive.
It is strange to see it all happening on Zoom, though – all those little screens in rows on a monitor. But you take community where you find it, and this is where we can have community in this plague year.
Mazel tov, Matthew!