When the son of a close friend who was divorced invited me to his Bar Mitzvah I eagerly accepted. What a treat! Often those who are born into the faith do not realize what treasures they possess. We will watch as the great Torah scrolls were reverently, ceremoniously removed from the Ark and unrolled. We will then listen as the young man reads the ancient liturgy in English and also in G_d’s language, where the rhymes are more in thoughts than words, so by repetition the words are burned in your heart. We will pray the beautiful prayers in the prayer book. We will all participate in his initiation into the life of the Torah.
NOTE: This series of blogs are an unpublished book by my guest columnit Jonah, 160 Reasons Not To Dance with the Other Woman at your Son’s Bar Mitzvah.
What Bar Mitzvah would be complete without a celebration? Corners had to be cut as the ex-husband did not want to pay half. Not wanting to ruin her son’s day, she invited her ex-husband and let him bring his new little latina. Early in the evening her son started lighting his Bar Mitzvah candles. Several close friends helped him light a candle, several relatives helped light a candle, and he had his mom help light a candle, and he also had his father light a candle.
Then the music started. I was seated next to friends of friends catching up on old times. Though I knew I would not dance, there were many people around me I could pray for so I was looking forward to an enjoyable evening. I could pray that her son would always Love G_d, that he would learn the Mitzvah. I could pray that those who grew up in the tradition would learn to pray the prayers like they learned them yesterday. I could pray that G_d would be as close to all there as He was in His days and decades in the desert. I could thank G_d for the many years of the elderly couples married all their lives, and that the young lovers would age together sweetly.
Then the slow dancing started. Strolling hand in hand, like high school sweethearts, were none other than dad with his little linda latina, on the Sabbath, in his son’s Bar Mitzvah, in front of his son, in front of his wife, in front is his parents, in front of her parent, in front of G_d, did they languorously dance, entwined, enmeshed, ensnared, where all creation could see. But there she danced with dad, with her little black dress and black shoes and jet black hair and enchanting black eyes as black as the sordidness of their souls as they danced without shame, as if this life was good.
I could not keep my eyes of this siren and her ensnared. For what could I pray? Could I pray that they would cease their dancing? It would be more practical to pray that their chairs would get up and escort them back to their table. Could I pray that he would leave her and go back to his wife? And ruin two women’s lives rather than one? Could I pray that his son not follow his example? That is not a good prayer, part of a Bar Mitzvah is that the son would follow the good example of his father. Could I pray that he would be a good example for his son? This lovely couple is breaking most of the Decalogue, and probably dozens if not hundreds of Mitzvah, every minute they are on the dance floor, and every night they are together, in a state of perpetuating sin. Could I pray that they are barren? He would probably be okay with this prayer, but I don’t know about her. Could I at least pray that they will raise any son they might bear as a good Jew, and be together for their son’s Bar Mitzvah? The problem with this prayer is I don’t think studying Torah was on her mind, and she may not even know the meaning of the word. There they were just blithely dancing like they were the only people in the world, when actually it would have been better for them if a Korah sized hole (see Numbers 16:20 for his story) would just open up on the dance floor so they could jump in and have the earth swallow them up, but that would not be a very good prayer either.
They only way I could keep my eyes off their salacious snuggling was for me to leave and pray and calm down some. I remembered I had forgotten the Bar Mitzvah gift and my apartment was not far, only a twenty or forty minute drive away. So I went back in and told my friend’s best friend that I would be right back. Then I could pray that he and that other woman would leave before I returned. That was a very good prayer.
Why didn’t I listen to some vulgar rock or country music? No, on the way back in my car I was listening to some tapes on Genesis on my way back to the Bar Mitzvah. The trouble was that somebody, somewhere in the Book of Genesis, was eating something. The lecturer launched into a very scholarly explanation on how the action of eating had a double meaning in vulgar English, but not in all languages, and so what was needed was a Hebrew proof text to see if formal Hebrew also had this double meaning. This proof text would use the very same Hebrew word for eating in another book of the Bible showing the double meaning. Then he read the proof text from the Book of Proverbs, “So is the way of an adulterous woman; she eats and wipes her mouth, and she says, ‘I have committed no sin.’ “. The culturally correct idiomatic rendering is that an adulterous woman will eat her fill until she is full, wipe her lips, take a good long smoke, exhale, smile, and say, “All is good in my life.”
Why do we love our lovers more than G_d? Why don’t we Love G_d more than our lovers? Why do we insist on choosing whichever lover we wish and presenting them to our Rabbi and G_d, expecting them to approve? If we Love G_d with all of our heart and with all of our soul and with all of our might, why would we not present our Loving G_d to our lover, and expect our lover to Love our G_d? Why would we not want to choose a spouse whose love will draw us closer to G_d, whose love would help us to Love G_d more?
We are adopting a strident tone in this book not because we want to hate the other woman, but because we do not want her to dance at our son’s Bar Mitzvah. And maybe a Rabbi could give this book to another poor woman who is tempted to become the other woman, so maybe they won’t. But after the night is over and the week begins anew, we should be courteous and polite to the other woman. Hatred rots the soul. Besides, your children will unfortunately be under her care when it is your husband’s turn for visitation.
(NOTE: Many Orthodox Jews only refer to the Almighty in this context as G_d, as His holy name is too sacred to spell out or to utter.)
Next blog: The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 2, How One Sin Can Lead to Many More, Up to a Perfect 10