Three weeks ago according to the Hebrew calendar my son became a man but two days after becoming a man he returned to seventh grade and took up largely where he left off. At dinner last week to a chorus of groans he announced that we should reinstitute family game night. Two nights ago he announced that he was quitting piano. And, last night he wandered the house looking for a willing victim for some card trick he was attempting to learn as I tried without success to work my own magic by disappearing beneath an avalanche of covers. It’s not really fair to him. I know that but I’m fifty and I’m done with unilateral pronouncements, board games and card tricks.
I had to chuckle as David rose to lead us in prayer on the day of his bar mitzvah. The cantor pulled out a stool for him to stand on so that he could reach the lectern. I kept thinking about the phrase from Isaiah, “…and a little child shall lead them.” I have no idea what the theological underpinnings of that phrase are but nonetheless it kept rolling around in my brain. And there is wisdom in the old customs because within the child who rose to lead his congregation that day I saw a glimpse of the man he will, God willing, someday become, not today, not tomorrow but someday. Through all the lessons and the practicing and the run-throughs I worried because your baby is always your baby and you wonder what they are really made of. And, then on that day for a moment you see something that you’ve never seen before. You see potential and maturity and the ability to rise to the occasion.
And last night as I gazed upon his baby soft, whiskerless face I knew that these days of high voices and smooth faces are fleeting and we are on the cusp of something big. Before the bar mitzvah album is complete he will morph into something between a boy and a man, awkward and incomplete but on a trajectory toward manhood that cannot be stopped.
And so, I pull the covers off my head, beckon him and pull a card from the deck he holds in fanned out fashion.
Happy Birthday my beautiful bar mitzvah boy.