Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Day I Became a Woman


June 2, 1979
I know, look how tiny and little and flat-chested and blurry, white stone-faced I was and still am--minus the flat-chested factor. Yet this is the day on which I became a Jewish woman. My Bat Mitzvah! The last post inspired this repost from 2010. My ceremony fell a couple of weeks short of my 13th birthday, a number of years short of puberty, and -well- I'll spare mention of other time frames.

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah involves leading a service, chanting from the Torah, and - the worst part (er, greatest honor)- holding the darn thing. Should said "new Jewish adult" drop the Torah, oy gevalt! The entire congregation, in fact, must fast for 30 days. Can you imagine? Minor slippage amounts to sentencing your beloved spiritual network to a month-long fast. You can surely forget the huge stash of cash you did all this for. Let me stress that we're talking about a large group of Jews (those very people who've sacrificed everything, mind you, so you could make it to this glorious point in your otherwise meaningless existence, and "By the way, why aren't you married yet?") not being able to eat for a month because of you. Not a pretty concept. Not pretty at all. One hurdle left, and the pressure was on. Not only did I have to hold it, I had to hold it for a long ass, I mean a righteously sacred tuchas* duration

With my little but tenacious arms wrapped around that Baby, the two of us were doing just fine. The audience and I were silent. Intensity pervaded the synagogue's 250 mile radius. All eyes glared anxiously at that Torah. Folks who had never prayed before began bargaining with the Almighty, Moses, Allah, Jesus, and Mr. Kotter. Family members started waging bets on the amount of time before the crash. Everyone held their breath. Their faces turned red. They crossed their fingers and toes, running out to nibble at their last bites of food for a month! But I was doing just fine, holding tight. Still, I needed to play it safe. One does not take chances when it comes to Jews and food. That in mind, I gave the Torah just a wee little boost with my little right knee. At that moment, a loud burst of laughter filled the sanctuary. Apparently, they found this considerate, devout and well calculated maneuver rather humorous. Bastards! I mean, I shall not blame my beloved spiritual hungry community. The tension was lifted, as I boosted that Baby another half inch, still holding on for dear life. 

We made it through to the end, and we got to eat. Mazel Tov!

*Yiddish for derriere, butt, rear-end, or ass.

43 comments:

  1. Robyn this was great! It was both funny and touching. I remember being 12 years old, all stressed out over something and desperately not wanting to disappoint my parents.

    ReplyDelete
  2. haha glad you never dropped the sucker, way to use your leg. Not eating for a month would suck

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ah, Robyn, I should have guessed that you had one! Never has your right knee been so admired! (I'm talking about my admiration, not theirs).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great post! I didn't know the whole congregation has to fast for a month after a Bar or Bat Mitzvah -- guess people shouldn't attend TOO many in the course of a year or when would they ever eat?

    ReplyDelete
  5. So fun Robyn, that's really cool that you had such a great Bat Mitzvah, sounds so fun as well, I never knew that you had to hold it!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Deb, that's only if the Torah is dropped. Thank goodness I didn't drop it! Oy gevalt.

    Thanks, all. It's a lot of pressure for a young kid and pseudo new adult, but I did fine.

    xoRobyn

    ReplyDelete
  7. Amazing story. I could see it all an such a cute photo!!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Fasting for 30 days??? I wouldn't last 30 hours LOL.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love reading about other religious customs. And you make it all sound so funny yet wonderful.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh My The Pressure. You drop it and no one eats for 30 days!!!! I can't imagine. Poor little you.

    So, did you feel like Wonder Woman when it was all over????

    ReplyDelete
  11. Serious question (I know-shocking), do girls have to read from the Torah like the boys do? I gotta imagine there's more to it than holding it (although I always enjoy holding it. See? I can't control myself-can't be serious all of the time, ya know).

    ReplyDelete
  12. What if people only fasted for 25 days?
    Would that be considered half-fast?

    ReplyDelete
  13. I meant 15 days!
    25 days makes no sense.
    Ay, yi, yi!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Here I go again with another comment. I just love seeing my picture.

    ReplyDelete
  15. And this makes half a dozen.
    I'm done now.

    ReplyDelete
  16. That is so interesting.
    I have heard of Bat Mizvah but really know very little about it- I thought it was for boys only and the fasting ??? everyone for 30 days ? Yikes !

    ReplyDelete
  17. I've known a lot of Jewish people i my life and never heard about the fasting if the Torah is dropped thing. Good thing you were able to hang on! They didnt' give you a podium to rest it on?

    ReplyDelete
  18. That thing is as big as you are! Glad you held on. (I remember this photo)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Love the way you bring humor into what should be a very formal event. I think my Mother told me one of my Grandmother's was Jewish but no one in the family went to Synagogue that I know of. I might have to look into that.

    ReplyDelete
  20. They should've been eternally grateful...

    ReplyDelete
  21. Ha! Such a cute story! Hurray for you and your little knee. :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi Robyn,

    What a day. I always wonder why it's called a "fast". I figure not eating would make me go slow.

    A most interesting, fascinating recollection, Robyn.

    Gary :) x

    ReplyDelete
  23. What a fun post! I really enjoy learning about other religions/cultures. You look so darn adorable. So cute and tiny.

    I never knew anything about Bat Mizvahs. You learn all sorts of interesting things on blogs.

    ReplyDelete
  24. You are being very modest focusing on your knee strength when I know how much hard work and preparation went into your Bat Mitzvah! You were adorable then, and still are!

    Julie

    ReplyDelete
  25. never knew girls had their own version

    ReplyDelete
  26. I've never been to a bat mitzvah. but thirty days of fasting??? ugh! i wouldn't last at all.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thanks, everyone. I really enjoyed your comments.

    The Bat Mitzvah (for girls) is a very young tradition, beginning sometime around the late 60s or early 70s. One of my friends had her in the 60s and wasn't allowed to read from the Torah.

    The Torah doesn't have vowels. It's tough to read, but I memorized my Torah portion. I didn't chant it (I just recited it) because I had/have a lousy singing voice.

    Al, a 15 or 25 day fast would be a half-ass half fast. It doesn't count. So you'd have a bacon cheeseburger and start again.

    Most synagogues have much smaller Torahs in their collections. It would've been much easier for me to hold a smaller one, but I got one - like MsA said - the same size as me.

    B'shalom (in peace),
    xoRobyn

    ReplyDelete
  28. I loved this post. My grandson is the age now where he's getting invited to lots of his friends' Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties (he's Catholic). I guess the parties are pretty impressive - he came home after one recently and informed his parents he wants to convert.

    ReplyDelete
  29. A month long fast, that totally sucks. I have trouble fasting for two days when I am doing a cleanse.

    ReplyDelete
  30. You are woman, hear you roar! Hey, have you ever checked out Nina Badzin's blog? She's Jewish and writes about it often, about raising her kids Jewish...how traditions are going by the wayside, etc. Something I thought you might want to check out.

    www.ninabadzin.com

    Have a (nageela) great night!

    M.L. Swift, Writer

    ReplyDelete
  31. Talk about pressure! My clumsy ass never would have made it and I would have had a lot of people upset with me lol. I love the humorous way you told the story :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. As I sit here (eating, of course) I think... wow, I can't go 2 hours without eating. 1 month? That sounds miserable.

    Oy, even the thought of going without food gets me all verklempt.

    ReplyDelete
  33. That seems like a lot of pressure to put on a youth. Aren't there any devious kids that might drop it on purpose just to get back at everyone? Seems like people need to be sucking up to these kids as their bar mitzvah approaches.

    ReplyDelete
  34. I didn't know what went on during a Bat Mitzvah. The only Jew I knew growing up was an aunt that married into the family. Later she converted to Christianity, but was still buried in a Jewish cemetery. Which I don't quite understand. But, anyway I have never seen one.

    ReplyDelete
  35. haha - that's a great story, well told and nice to have something significant in your 'coming of age.'


    I know of the ceremony, but not in that much detail... (my partner's Jewish).. so I appreciated your comment, 'don't mess with Jews and food ...' haha oi!

    ReplyDelete
  36. Wow, they really know how to set a little 13 year up for years of scorn if one would actually drop the Torah. I have a few things "mentioned" about my childhood every time our family congregates and I didn't even cause anyone to miss a meal (let alone 30 days of meals)

    Love the line " Folks who had never prayed before began bargaining with the Almighty, Moses, Allah, Jesus, and Mr. Kotter. Family members started waging bets on the amount of time before the crash." That is so funny.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Great post Robyn! If you had dropped that, they would STILL be talking about it...

    ReplyDelete
  38. Lol. I might have dropped it just out of nerves!! Good job. :) I don't know that I could fast for a whole month....2 meals are hard enough for me.

    ReplyDelete
  39. You had me giggling all the way. Over here from Gary Pennick. Great stuff.

    ReplyDelete