Tomorrow my niece will have her Bat Mitzvah. She will get up in front of the congregation and friends and family from near and far and she will read from the Torah. It is a Jewish rite of passage and she is well prepared for it. She will do great.
I, on the other hand, will bomb.
I never had a Bat Mitzvah. I was raised in the same synagogue where she will have her ceremony, and while it is a beautiful house of worship, it’s also quite large. As a kid her age I was quite shy. I begged my parents not to make me do it, and they agreed. I still don’t entirely understand that decision, but I’m happy with it. As a result, I never had to go up there and recite Hebrew in front of all those people. I dodged a bullet. Or so I thought.
A few nights ago my brother mentioned that he would like me and my mother to recite two prayers during the service. One is recited before reading the Torah, and the other is recited after. I’ve heard both of these prayers many many times during my life, but could I tell you the exact words? Did I mention that they’re in Hebrew? Gulp.
My brother told me not to worry, they have a laminated card right up there on the pulpit so you can’t mess up. The words are written in english syllables. Sort of. And the tune… well, let’s just say it’s a kind of sing-song chant thing. I should know it. But I don’t.
My internet access has been somewhat limited, so it wasn’t until tonight that I was able to hunt around on youtube to find these prayers. Finally, a Jan Lieberman, a cantor from Florida, had what I needed. I know most of it, but there’s still one line that’s tricky. The sounds she makes and the english letters on the laminated card don’t seem to match up in my brain, so I’m still a little stuck on that part. Add to that the fact that my mother is completely tone deaf, and I don’t have a great voice to begin with, and I think we’re in trouble.
The good news is that I’ve got the first prayer down. The further good news is that the second prayer is only about 15 seconds long on the youtube video. It will be fine, I have all night to listen to it. Besides, nobody will be paying attention to me anyway, it’s my niece’s day, and she will be perfect.