Today, my one and only offspring, my “baby” turns thirteen. The “teen” after “thir” merely serves to reinforce that the snappy tongue and sassy attitude do indeed belong to my now official teenage son. A family member reminded me earlier this week that had my son’s father lived, he would have been raised Jewish, and this weekend would most likely have been his Bar Mitzvah. For those of you unfamiliar with this Jewish rite of passage, thirteen year-old males now bear the responsibility, once held by their parents, for Jewish ritual law, tradition and ethics. They are called to the Torah for the religious/spiritual aspect of this event, and then afterward, there is a HUGE party that rivals a wedding, both in cost and extravagance. M.’s first and only indoctrination into the Jewish religion was his Bris, which was held when he was approximately one month old. (This initial rite of passage usually takes place on the infant’s eighth day of life, but M. was four weeks premature, so it was postponed.) The Bris is the ritual circumcision of the Jewish male, which is a ceremony of sorts ALSO followed by a party. (I did not actually witness M.’s circumcision, as I politely excused myself, stepped outdoors and cried. Once the “act” was complete, I came back inside and whisked my whimpering baby into the bedroom while the family indulged in all foods Jewish-bagels, cream cheese, lox and egg salad. (How one sits down and eats after witnessing the cutting of a baby’s penis is beyond me!)
M. obviously turned thirteen without declaring a religious affiliation, though he is a card-carrying member of the Religion of Joan, a denomination not recognized outside the walls of our home. While he won’t be celebrating his own Bar Mitzvah, he did recently receive the Bar Mitzvah ring that once belonged to his paternal grandfather, who passed away in August 2010. (M. was the recipient of this coveted heirloom not so much because of his Jewish heritage, but primarily due to the fact that he is the only male grandchild.) Today, we honor and reflect on what might have been, and celebrate this important milestone in any child’s life-male or female, Jewish or not. Happy Birthday to my son, and may God help me get through the next few years!