Alex becomes bar mitzvah

Shabbat Shalom.  Thank you all for sharing with us today as we watched Alex become a bar mitzvah.  The thing that I’m sure you’ve heard a lot of parents talk about is how proud they are of their bar mitzvah child.  I wrote this speech before today and in advance I could already write, yes, I am so proud of this kid.  That is because I had all the behind the scenes understanding of what it takes to become a bar mitzvah in 2017.  It’s a lot.  It is way more than what he made look effortless today.  A little more than 75 years ago all you did was pop by the shul with a spongecake that your mom made, said a blessing and then went on to school.  That’s exactly how my grandfather - Alex’s great-grandfather - became a bar mitzvah.  As an aside, while my grandpa wasn’t feeling well enough to make the trip out from L.A. today, he got to see Alex read his Torah readings and haftarah on Skype and shared these feelings of pride.  

Okay, so let me explain this pride a little more.  As an observer, it may look like Alex practiced to memorize some songs albeit in a different language and got ready for the big performance.  This would not be unlike what he does when he’s performing in a School of Rock band. But what Alex really did was learn how to read, speak and understand a different language as well as learn how to read different types of musical notes.  He can now walk into any synagogue anywhere in the world be it reform, conservative or orthodox and participate fully.  He has the tools to congratulate someone with a mazel tov or comfort someone by helping he or she recite mourners kaddish.  He knows not only that the response to Sheket B’Vahkahshah is “Hey!”, but also that those words mean, “Please be quiet”.  His Jewish education has not been all about reaching this one day, about becoming a bar mitzvah and the service that you saw today, but has been and will continue to be about being a humanistic and tolerant Jewish adult.  This kid right here, is a really good kid on his way to becoming a really good adult. No pressure, Alex!  That, everyone, is pride.  I’ll even use a Yiddish word, although that’s not really my thing - K’vell.  It’s a word that means feeling so proud that your heart is almost bursting with it. So if a quick prayer on the way to school warranted a sponge cake, then what Alex has accomplished deserves a huge celebration. I've learned that there is a three-pronged formula to a great party, being surrounded by friends and family who love you, great food and great music. We have all three here this afternoon. 

One last thing that I’d like to say before I introduce this afternoon’s entertainment and this is a message directly for Alex.  You heard Eric and I recite to Alex the blessing over children up on the bimah earlier.  We try to say this prayer to our kids almost every Friday night.  My favorite part is the last few words - V’yesam l’cha shalom - this means more or less may you be at peace.  Alex may you live a peaceful and happy life.  We love you very much.

And now I’d like to introduce Cabaret Sauvignon.  Please eat, be merry and enjoy the wonderful acapella musical performance that you are about to experience.  Thank you.

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