Friday, January 23, 2009

My Bat Mitzvah Speech


It is standard operating procedure for the bar or bat mitzvah person to make a short speech about their faith, the torah or the haftorah reading, a favorite charity they'll be donating to or, for adults, why they have decided to become bat mitzvah. Hazzan Laurie told us we'd each have to do this. My five classmates demured at first, needed coaxing, but I'm used to public speaking as I participate in open mics or critiquing groups almost every week. I got very naked. I shocked people. My speech follows:

My section of the haftorah discusses destroying and building. You can't build unless you tear down. You can't tear down unless you have something there. My favorite Latin word, you know, if anything, I'm a Latin scholar, certainly not a Hebrew scholar, is tollere, to raze [r-a-z-e] or to raise [r-a-i-s-e]. That was me, destroying everything so I could start over. I left my spouse, I left my family, I lost my job, I left my home. So there I was. Homeless, unemployed, alone. Sounds pretty bad, doesn't it?

There was no structure to my life, no anchor. The only thing I had was me and I wondered where is there a rope to pull me out of this mess of my life? And is it a rope I can climb or is it a noose? Quite frankly, I didn't care which. Both would have served me equally well. So my friend, a retired therapist, gave me an assignment: list what you are, where you want to be and how you want to feel. He expected me to list my usual intellectual ambitions, no emotional stuff, I cringe at touchy-feely. Well, the first thing on my list was to light candles every Friday night. Small step, very doable. The second was to be bat mitzvah by the time I turned 50. Big step, very improbable.

I looked at that list, surprised. I don't know where those came from, why I put them on the list, but I knew without them, nothing else was possible. I came here for High Holy Day services last Sept, and lo and behold, you had a new hazzan. Hazzan Laurie was going to lead services every two weeks. She started Adult Ed classes and then, a b'nai mitzvah class, too. All I could think was, oh wow, there is no such thing as coincidence, or as the Hazzan says, co-inky dinks. I saw this road open before me, a road with lights, smooth, clear, straight. No more phantom trees pulling at me, breaks and creases in the asphalt tripping me, or semis trying to run me over.

Lighting candles and being bat mitzvah are still items one and two on that list, but the rest has been revised. Goals and wants aren't stagnant, not if you are living as opposed to just going through the motions. James Barrie wrote that all you need is faith, trust, and a little pixie dust: heart, mind and magic. It's here.

Thank you, Hazzan Laurie, fellow congregants for making this possible. Thank you all.


NB: My torah section was Sh'mot 1:5-7 and my haftorah was Jeremiah 1:6-10.
I replied: Oh, Eternal One!
I do not know how to speak, for I am still a child.
And the Eternal One replied: Do not say 'I am still a child.'
But you will go wherever I send you and speak whatever I command you.
Have no fear, for I am with you.
From them, I will keep you, I will deliver you-thus spake the Holy One.

The Eternal One put out His hand and touched my mouth.
He said: Herewith, I put My words into your mouth.
See, I appoint you this day over nations and kingdoms;
To uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.

2 comments:

hubby-not yet X said...

your spouse and your family thank you for leaving them and being led down the primorse path by a scam artist.it's nice to know that you are happier and more fulfilled than you ever were.no wonder you didn't want me and the children at your bat mtizvah.you must have been too afraid that we would have opened up a pandoras box.

winged unicorn said...

thank you for your insight in your support in this, as i have received your support in the past in all things. since you haven't attended services with me in 7 years, i had no reason to think you'd be interested in attending now.