November 20, 2008

Today I am a fountain pen

One upon a time, when boys became bar mitzvah, they frequently received a fountain pen as a gift. The joke went, when the bar mitzvah boy got up to speak to the synagogue, he would say, “Today I am a fountain pen.”

This week marks the 36th anniversary of my bat mitzvah at Temple Sholom in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rabbi Donald Splansky was our new rabbi, and I was the first bat mitzvah of his tenure. I remember thinking to myself, after we had finished the Torah service and I had completed everything I spent a year learning, "That's it? All that work and I'm done?"

Thirty-six is a significant Jewish number. In Hebrew, every letter has a numerical value. The word chai (life) has a value of 18. Therefore twice chai is 36. (This is why you often see charitable donations from Jews given in multiples of 36.)

I wanted to mark this anniversary. Since I am mourning my father, I'm not leading services on Shabbat. So I learned a new set of tunes and led the Torah service this morning at minyan. (We read the Torah on Mondays and Thursday as well as Shabbat.) Being the daughter of a Cohen, I also received the first aliyah.

It was challenging to learn new tunes on the fly, but everyone seemed to enjoy my singing and the opportunity to help me celebrate a Jewish anniversary. The spiced chocolate truffles I brought along to share as a snack might also have helped contribute to the festive feeling!

After services ended, I went to the shul's kitchen and made 200 more truffles to share with the congregation at kiddush this coming Shabbat. I hope they're a big hit on Saturday as well!

By the way, I did NOT receive a fountain pen as a bat mitzvah gift. But I did get a clock/radio, very trendy electronics for the time (1972). I still have the Beatles songbook a friend gave me. I remember shopping for shoes to wear with the new dress. My feet were large, but I was only 13 years old. The only appropriate shoes for a girl with size 8 feet were dye-to-match low-heeled pumps. We had them dyed navy blue to match the dress and I sweated so much, the dye ran all over my toes.

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