The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

Nitty Gritty

Posted in learning hebrew by Juliet on October 13, 2010

It’s mid-October and with a Bat Mitzvah date on the calendar of December 18, I am  waist-deep in planning.

Unlike a traditional Bat Mitzvah girl, I am the student as well as the party planner.  This has pros and cons.

The pros are many:  I get to pick everything.  My dress, music, color, or cake choice won’t be vetoed by anyone.  Basically I can do whatever the hell I want.  Woo hoo!  I’m seriously considering eggplant colored linens, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.

The main con is:  I have to study and prepare!  It never ends.  When you become an adult B’nai Mitzvah, people watch closely because it’s a novelty.  If I fall flat on my face on the 18th, or even if I just stumble, everyone will see.

Our class is pooling together to hire a videographer, so my stumbles will be memorialized for…time immemorial, I guess.

I am easily the pokiest student in the class.  BeLinda, who was usually behind me in the Hebrew department, dropped out a couple of months ago.  Her daughter had a Bat Mitzvah at Labor Day and all of the study and planning was just too much.

Louis and I used to be more evenly matched but he’s pulled ahead.  Lorraine has a wonderful ear for language and as a trained musician, she is elegant and graceful at both prayers and her Torah portion.

And Sybil….who is in her (late) 70s….none of us can touch Sybil, in dedication, drive, commitment, or skill.

Lorraine and Sybil are taking extra classes with Cantor Lori Frank to learn cantillation (basically like “singing” the portion according to an ancient, arcane system of signs and symbols.)  Louis and I are staggering through our portions hoping to just establish a basic rhythm.

Meanwhile, I’m working on getting everyone’s mailing addresses.  Making final corrections and adding finishing touches to invitations.  Choosing a florist for centerpieces.  Tasting entrees (I’m a vegetarian and was originally going to go all vegetarian, but the owner of the winery where I’m having the after-party luncheon seemed very worried and she knows her own wines and events best, so we’re doing a “duet” plate, and vegetarians will just have the vegetarian entree half of it.)

I ordered and finally received a tallit from Israel, complete with requisite delivery issues, fighting, name calling, and ultimate mutual respect.  (Is it just me or is every online transaction with Israel in this same basic template?  It’s like variations on a theme.)

But the main thing is to keep at it.  We are rehearsing in the sanctuary now, using the real Torah scroll we’ll be reading from on the 18th, and it’s harder than it looks.  Even doing the blessing before Torah reading, which we’ve all said at this point a zillion times and should know by heart, becomes a challenge.  You stand up there, look out at the “crowd” (even rows of empty pews during our rehearsals can be intimidating), and your mind goes blank.

My friend was a flight attendant and she has talked about emergency situations.  “Your mind goes blank, but then your training kicks in.”

So I practice.  Or rather, TRAIN.  And train and train and train.

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