So Proud Of My Bar Mitzvah Man

On Saturday, NHL was called to the Torah for the first time. This rite of passage welcomes him as a man in the eyes of Judaism. I’m still beaming with pride.

To clarify, all that is required is that you get called up to the Torah, say an opening blessing and a closing blessing and you’re done. That’s the most basic requirement. There are traditions that the Bar Mitzvah boy (or Bat Mitzvah girl) read from the Torah and sing a Haftorah portion (an excerpt from one of the books of the prophets that is linked in some way to the Torah portion), but this doesn’t need to be done at all.

So what did NHL do? First, he led the service as we took out the Torah. Then, he read from the Torah (a long passage, might I add) as B and I were called up. Next, came his big moment. He was called up for the first time as a member of the Jewish community. He sang the opening prayers, read from the Torah again, and then sang the closing prayers. After this, he gave a speech about his Torah portion (a Dvar Torah) before reading his Haftorah.

As he walked across the stage to speak with the rabbi, we got to pelt NHL with candy as a traditional wish for the target to have a sweet life. It’s also a favorite among kids who then get to storm the front to gather candy. NHL was lucky that we chose the soft Sunkist Fruit Gems. My parents packed projectiles that included Hershey’s Kisses. Those things sting – or at least would have if I hadn’t been smart enough to duck behind the podium right after finishing my Haftorah. Back to NHL, though, I am happy to report that I hit him with my first throw.

Moving on, we said the traditional parental blessing over NHL and sang a quick song thanking God for letting us see this wonderful day. NHL sang the Ashrei (another prayer) before we put the Torah away and, later on, sang some closing prayers with his brother and cousins.

So how did he do?

From his practice sessions, I was confident that NHL knew his stuff.  I was sure that he was ready, albeit nervous – a perfectly normal reaction to such a momentous occasion. Still, as NHL often does, he blew away my expectations. He nailed all of the Hebrew readings and many people commented on how great his speech was. More than one specifically said that it greatly moved them. I will admit that I helped him craft the speech, but I was more a guiding force – helping direct him on the best way to make his point. The content and especially the delivery was all NHL. (NHL has given me permission to publish his speech on my blog so look for that later this week.)

I’m having trouble coming up with words to say how proud I am of NHL. He has put in a tremendous amount of effort into his Bar Mitzvah preparations. He would practice in the car on the way to school and then again at night after his homework was done. He went to temple with me countless Saturdays during which he didn’t just observe the service, but interjected himself into it. That Ashrei prayer I mentioned earlier? He was the regular reader of that virtually every Saturday we attended services. And after that prayer, he would walk around behind the Torah shaking everyone’s hands. So many other Bar/Bat Mitzvah kids show up at temple for the first time on their Bar/Bat Mitzvah day and then vanish forever. NHL has showed that he likes having a place in the synagogue. Though, I might give him a week off this coming Saturday – he’s earned it.

And the reading from the Torah that NHL did? Reading Hebrew is hard enough with vowels. Believe me, I know. I can read Hebrew but at a snail’s pace. I rely on having memorized virtually all of the prayers over the years. If I had to lead a service going solely by reading the Hebrew, the three hour long morning service would likely take a good ten hours or more. When you read from the Torah, though, all of the vowels are removed. Consider that for a moment. D y knw hw hrd t s t rd nglsh wtht vwls? Srsly. t’s xtrmly dffclt t d.*  Now take some text in a completely different language and remove the vowels. Or better yet, here’s a glimpse of NHL’s text from a photo taken at one of his practice sessions (since photos weren’t permitted on the big day):


Could you read that? I certainly couldn’t. I know that NHL memorized much, if not all, of it, but the sheer fact that he fit that much in his brain and still had room for everything else is amazing. I’m in awe of my son and will be telling him how proud I am of him until he’s sick of it. Then I will proceed to tell him a dozen more times before considering whether I should lay off of it for a couple of minutes.

Congratulations, NHL. You did amazing on Saturday and I’m so proud of my Bar Mitzvah Man!




* For those really confused: “Do you know how hard it is to read English without vowels? Seriously. It’s extremely difficult to do.”

Sweet New Year

Apples_And_HoneyI’m going to be offline for the next two days while we celebrate Rosh Hashana.  Thus the short post today and lack-of-a-post tomorrow.

For those who don’t know, this is the Jewish New Year.  One of the many traditions on this holiday is to eat apples and honey.  This is supposed to help you have a sweet year.  I’ve got plenty of both here.

If you celebrate Rosh Hashana, I hope you have a good year ("L’shanah tovah").  If you don’t, I hope the rest of your year (and all of the ones after this one) are very sweet.

What is a favorite holiday tradition you have?

Disclaimer: The image above was created by combining Apples by gnokii and Honey Jar by PrinterKiller.  Both of these images are available on

Aloha Friday: Fasting for Yom Kippur

Tonight, at sundown, I’ll begin fasting for Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is a time for repenting. It is a time to think about all the things you did wrong over the year and plan how to do better in the coming year. There are many restrictions, such as fasting, designed to focus people on their repentance. The fast lasts from sundown on Friday night to an hour after sundown on Saturday night. In short, 25 hours. During this period, I won’t be able to eat or drink anything. No, I can’t even have a sip of water. (Some people are so religious that they won’t brush their teeth or shower during Yom Kippur. I do not belong to this group, however, and continue with basic hygene hygene.)

My Aloha Friday question for today is: What is the longest period you went without eating or drinking?

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the MckLinky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #55

Aloha Friday: Food Festival

This time of year always brings back fond food memories. Since we celebrate Passover, we would have a whole week of eating Matzoh in various forms. Matzoh and cream cheese. Matzoh Pizza (matzoh microwaved with sauce & cheese). Matzoh with schmaltz (rendered chicken fat – tastes like a rich butter) and salt (very unhealthy but oh-so-good). Matzoh Brei (matzoh soaked in water, drained, mixed with eggs and fried like a pancake). Are you sensing a theme here?

Yes, we eat a lot of Matzoh during Passover. It’s pretty much the only “bread” we can eat during the holiday. No rolls, bread, tortillas, pitas, pasta, cereal, or other bread product. In fact, since we’re Ashkenazi, we have more restrictions. No corn (or corn products), beans or rice (among other things).

As you can guess, cooking for Passover can be tricky. Especially when dealing with little kids used to breaded chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese and the like. In years past, we would buy a lot of pre-packaged, frozen foods at great expense. This year, we decided to prepare more fresh foods. Just today, I baked turkey burgers, wrapped them in romaine lettuce leaves and served it with a broccoli/mushroom stir fry in teryaki sauce. (Well, fake teryaki sauce since the real stuff isn’t kosher for Passover.) All in all a delicious, but not too fattening dinner.

My Aloha Friday question for this week is: What meals does this season remind you of? What do you do to eat healthy during holidays?

Thanks to Kailani at An Island Life for starting this fun for Friday. Please be sure to head over to her blog to say hello and sign the MckLinky there if you are participating.

Aloha Friday by Kailani at An Island Life

Aloha #32

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