In traditional Judaism, a young man puts on tefillin (phylacteries) for the first time a month before his bar mitzva. Today was that day for ds12.
Dh took him to buy the tefillin in Bnei Brak several weeks ago, and yesterday afternoon they took them out so ds could practice how to put them on. At that point, they realized that something had been tied according to a different custom than ours ( tied to wrap going out, rather than in), so they went out to find someone who could help them in the short time they had. Fortunately, dh had met someone here who is a sofer (scribe) and was able to quickly remedy the issue.
Dh went with ds12 to the morning service, where he put on tefillin for the first time. To celebrate, they took a few bottles of soft drinks and lots of homemade baked goods to share with the other people in the minyan (mostly the classmates and teachers of ds12, hence the horrifying amounts of sugar): doughnuts (chocolate and plain glazed) – in honor of Chanukah, cinnamon rolls, swirl cookies, chocolate cake – he’s lucky he had older sisters who wanted him to have something nice to put out!
Here’s the young man of the hour:
Dr. Gordon Neufeld, author of Hold On To Your Kids, has lamented that in Western culture, there are no rituals to mark the passage from child to adult. The exception, he notes, is in the Jewish religion, where boys and girls mark this passage with the bar/bas mitzva celebration, as they accept on themselves a Torah lifestyle of their own desire and volition.
This has practical ramifications – once bar mitzva, ds will be able to fulfill a minyan (prayer quorum) just as an adult man can. This is going to make the person who has a synagogue a few doors away happy since he’s called in the past for ds to come complete the minyan, and been surprised (since he looks older) and disappointed that he couldn’t come.
But for parents as well, it’s good to have something like this to remind you that your child is moving towards adulthood, and to treat them accordingly. I every so often recently when talking about bar mitzva preparations, have been giving an exaggerated sniff and saying in a falsetto weepy voice: “My baby is growing up.” Though I do it jokingly, it’s true, he really is growing up. I clearly remember when ds18 was at this stage, wondering how he got to this point so quickly. And with ds18 now not living at home anymore, I’m very, very aware of how fast the time flies by.
In other news, ds12 and I measured against one another back to back tonight. He is now definitely taller than me. Ds18 was 5’8″ when he was bar mitzva, and since I’m a little short of 5’9″, he passed me soon after. But ds12 has already passed me, which reminded me of something I told my oldest a few years ago when he was wrestling with his brother: “One day, he’s going to be bigger and stronger than you, so you better be nice to him!” Ds18 is almost six feet, and he’s no wimp, but tonight he came home and when he saw ds12, he told him that he’s on track to be bigger than him. ‘But’, he continued, ‘you have to be able to learn more gemaras (Talmud) than I can to really be bigger than me!’