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Today I am a Man!

It's a phrase most Jewish boys say when then reach the age of thirteen.

Who are these newly ordained Kings of the Castle?   Well, central casting about 5000 years ago developed two molds:

                         1)  A young man about 4 foot nothing, who can't see over the podium and looks absolutely absurd when dancing with one of young ladies who are at least a foot taller.   This young man is destined to have his cheeks pinched by some elderly Aunt named Bessie.   He has no memory of this Aunt, but she swears that she used to diaper him.

                         2) An uncoordinated, overweight kid,  who's sole source of enjoyment on this day is pouring salt in his friends' soda.   This kid has so much metal in his mouth that it becomes impossible to take flash pictures.  Aunt Bessie, who is also only 4 feet tall, can't reach his cheeks.

Nearly 40 years ago, when I was Bar Mitzvahed,  I was the later.   It was the last week of the 1960's and I was to commence my manhood in a new decade.

When I studied for my Bar Mitvah, I observed that the kids who couldn't read Hebrew had their portion transliterated for them by the Rabbi.  I faked it.  I could read the language as well as anyone in my class, but why bother.   I started my deception by reading left to right.  That was enough for the Rabbi to write out a transliteration.  I read English!

The day came, December 27, 1969.  There was a tremendous ice storm.  I had laryngitis,  which was a blessing, because, then and now, I can't sing!  We drove to the Temple. It's the sabbath and you're not supposed to ride in an automobile.   I guess Abraham and Sarah never did.  So I started my manhood as a sinner.

My friends, the few who could hear my raspy voice, counted my mistakes.  They claimed four, I claimed none, it was the effect of my voice cracking.

I wore my first blue suit. Purchased at the same store on Austin Street, that every other kid in Queens got their suits from.  It didn't matter what it looked like at 9:00 AM.  By noon when the party started, the suit would be creased and my shirt out of my pants.  By the way, nothing has changed.

All the boys made what they thought were funny, off color jokes.  The girls waited for these new men to ask them to dance.  They were disappointed. 

I make fun of that day, but I still vividly remember it.  I still remember the first two lines of the part of the Torah that I had to sing.  I haven't heard it in 38 years!   I didn't become a man that day.  Crossing that bridge would have to wait,  but I did cross a memorable threshold.



 

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