For a son who is being called to the Torah this year October 6th 2007
Show me a dark-eyed handsome lad
Whose face is like the full moon,
Whose long eye lashes when his eye flashes
Might cause a maiden to swoon.
I’ll show you a mother like many another
Whose anxious heartfelt pride,
Is reaching out with love not doubt
To the son who is leaving her side.
Show me the diligent Torah scholar
Who is ready to hear his aliyah
And rabbi-willed his heart is filled
With atavistic fire.
I’ll show you a father standing tall
Part of a line of tradition
Ready to make that minyan call
To a son that has come to fruition.
Show me the throng filled synagogue
Ranked on both sides of the aisle,
When gabbai or rabbi stand by his side
To prompt with a word or a smile.
And I will show you a family
Who are moved by the moment to sigh,
As he takes his place in that long long line
And never an eye will be dry.
I am the mother who like any other
Has a heart that is filled with pride
Who bore the dark-eyed handsome lad
That stood by the altar side,
Who answered the call to Torah
To consider the question “Why”,
We follow in this long tradition
And it’s hard to keep my eye dry.
Like the Roman Catholic Confirmation service which takes place when a boy reaches the age of fourteen or so, the Jewish Bar Mitzvah is a sort of coming of age and is a celebration for the family and the community of a young man’s right of passage. The candidates answer the call (aliyah) to read a passage from the Bible (Torah-the first five books or Pentateuch) and explain its meaning. In so doing they publicly display that they are mature enough to understand the laws and traditions of society and why they should adhere to them.
This is and age old process, and in Jewish culture qualifies them to participate in the minyan, the communal prayer in which at least ten men are to be present, and at which matters of significance may be discussed. Any parent will naturally feel a deep sense of emotion when witnessing this religious service, and in western culture a great deal is made of the occasion to include family and friends in what can be extravagant festivals.
A mother asked me the other day if I would write a poem for her son who was about to answer his call to the Torah. She is confident that he is
going to do a good job, and she wants to express her love and admiration and pride for him as he comes of age, already committed to following his father’s career as a cardiologist. This then is my offering.
Neil McLeod 8.26.2007.
Gabbai - The Gabbai the rabbi's assistant stands next to the Torah reader holding a version of the text with vowels and trop markings