I stared at the prayer book, more nervous than I’d been since… when?
Heck, it had been a long time since I felt this kind of pressure. It took me by surprise.
I had been meeting with the senior rabbi of my temple, Temple Sinai in Oakland, California, to inquire about studying to become an adult Bat Mitzvah. He was encouraging and enthusiastic. But one question was whether I could read Hebrew well enough to go straight into the Bat Mitzvah study process, or whether I would need to take a semester or two of Biblical Hebrew.
So the rabbi thrust a prayer book at me and asked me to read a section out loud. I hadn’t expected this.
I launched into sounding the words out. I have a passable but rusty knowledge of modern, spoken Hebrew from two stints living in Israel in my teens and twenties, but I never learned to read well. I wasn’t sure if it were worse to go slowly and get things right but sound hesitant, or go quickly and sound fluent but make mistakes. I went quickly.
I clawed my way over each letter like someone climbing across a field of boulders. Every so often I would come to a word that I recognized and feel a shower of relief.
After less than two minutes, it was done. The rabbi said I could stop.
Had I passed? failed?
When I had showed up for our meeting, I hadn’t expected a miniature version of a Julliard audition.
“That’s fine,” he said. “You have problems with vowels. But it’s okay.”
And then we moved on to talk about the Bat Mitzvah process, and scheduling, and whether there might be enough other interested temple members to form a class.
So it was a go. We set another meeting date for early November. At the ripe old age of 51, I’m now at the start of this road to becoming a Bat Mitzvah — something that Jewish kids typically do at age 13.
And you, dear blog reader, are invited to join me. I hope this may prove interesting, entertaining and (dare I say?) thought-provoking to both Jewish and non-Jewish readers.
At the very least, it will be a good way for me to process my own thoughts and responses. And at best, I look forward to learning from your comments, observations, comparisons and questions. Not just about the Bat Mitzvah process, but about midlife adventures and transitions of all sorts.
Will you join me?
More to come in this space soon!