The Jewish religion is rich with tradition, history and meaning. We all get that. But I learned quite a bit about the Jewish people that I did not know at my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah. Here goes:
1) The Jewish people are exceptionally well educated people. My nephew stood up in front of his whole congregation and recited what seemed like an endless stream of Hebrew, read from the Torah. At his age, I played Atari 2600 and shot BB Guns at cats. David has been studying how to read and speak and ancient language since he was a small boy. The whole congregation seemed to be able to read, speak or understand at least a good bit of what was happening. I looked around the room and felt that I was truly the dumbest person in the room. Not because I could not read Hebrew….because this love of learning at a young age is the genesis of sublime brainpower for the Jews. The congregation was made up of exceptional people….lawyers, doctors, stay at home parents. They orbit a different intellectual planet than me for sure.
2) Israel is no joke. The Hebrew readings I heard were as clear as the ringing in your ears at a Matisyahu concert. The Jewish people are the chosen people of God. Israel is the heart of the Jews. It is the place God provided for the Jews to live….the promised land. OK. All stuff you know if you went to Sunday School. It is more clear than even that.
Did you know that the promise of Isreal is thousands of years old? Way before David Ben-Gurion in 1948, with the formation of the modern state of Israel. Way before the 3rd century when Christians and Muslims began to populate and fight over the region. Before the Assyrians, Babylonians, Egyptians and Romans. Israel is part of the Jews relationship with God. It is what they are. And by the way…they were in the Middle East first. Before the Muslims and the Christians and probably the sand. It brings a whole new perspective to what is happening in the Middle East today.
3) The Jewish people yearn for peace. What? The nation of Israel is wicked lethal. Everybody carries an automatic weapon and they have held off swarms of Jordanian, Egyptian and Syrian tanks with like a paperclip and some gunpowder. So you would think they think about conquest and death to enemies. Nope. The prayers that I heard over and over again were for peace. For all nations to lay down arms and turn their heads towards God. Again, the Jewish penchant for peace did not start in 1948. Peace is a yearning that is as old as Judaism itself.
4) The Jewish people know how to party. After the Bar Mitzvah service in the morning, we returned for the celebration in the evening. The Rabbi broke the Sabbath and it was on. Drinks flowed. Good food was everywhere. Kids and adults danced. They huddled together in loving conversation. It was very clear that they loved the community of togetherness.
So, count me as a newly educated Gentile. I got to be the minority. I got to be the learner. I walked away delighted with my handsome, well-educated nephew and with deep respect for the Jewish community in which my sister and brother-in-law commune.