Mom’s bar mitzvah speech stirs deep emotions

I’m working on my speech for Jack’s upcoming bar mitzvah, and it’s harder to write than I thought. It seems like only yesterday when my son was eating soggy Cheerios with his fingers. Wait a minute…that was yesterday.

I might as well talk about the first time I laid eyes on Jack. He was an embryo. I vividly recall the dialogue between the nurse and myself during my first ultrasound at the doctor’s office.

One idea for my ceremonial address is to share my first experience of separation anxiety. It happened about a decade ago, when I dropped off my little redhead wearing denim overalls on his first day of Jewish preschool. Frankly, I was overcome with emotions after I hesitantly left Jack in the classroom with the teacher and a dozen wandering toddlers. In fact, I ran to the bathroom down the hallway so that I could wipe my mascara-stained face with a piece of cheap toilet paper. Then, I found the nearest telephone, which happened to be in the temple copy room, and called my husband at work.

Me: “I can’t believe I abandoned our child with a stranger,” I sobbed to Scott on the phone. “The next thing I know Jack will be leaving us to go to college.”

Scott: “He’ll be fine. Why don’t you go check on him before you leave the building?”

Me: “Sure, easy for you to say. You’re distracted at the office all day. What am I going to do with myself for the next whole two hours?”

Scott: “I bet you’ll think of something.”

Another option is to perform a demonstration speech. For example, I can bring a worn, brown Rawlings glove that Jack wore when he was little and ask him to squeeze his left hand into the tight leather mitt. (Think OJ Simpson trial). This visual effect reveals how much he’s grown and proves that he’s really becoming a man. Now how many moms have done that?

Perhaps my best bet is to say something more serious and traditional, such as a meaningful quote from the Talmud (Brachot 17A) that was written more than 2,000 years ago. The English text is: “May you live to see your world fulfilled; May you be our link to future worlds; and may your hope encompass all the generations to be. May your heart conceive with understanding; may your mouth speak wisdom and your tongue be stirred with sounds of joy. May your gaze be straight and sure, your eyes be lit with Torah’s lamp, your face aglow with heaven’s radiance, your lips expressing words of knowledge, and your inner self alive with righteousness. And may you always rush in eagerness to hear the words of One more ancient than all time.”

Although the words of the sages are uplifting, I might go with something original, such as:

“Today on your bar mitzvah

We are so proud of you.

No one said it’s easy

To learn to be a Jew.”

Then again, if I feel desperate enough, I always can use my credit card and buy my bar mitzvah sentiments over the Internet. That’s right, for the bargain price of $19.97, I can purchase a professionally written, customizable, risk-free, not-too-sappy, easy-to-deliver speech that also includes a toast, candle lighting prayer, assorted poems, and God’s blessing on the Sabbath. Best of all, this readily available congratulatory speech package is 100 percent guaranteed or my money back.

And I thought nothing in life is guaranteed.

“Mishegas of Motherhood” is the creation of Ellie S. Grossman, a St. Louis freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom who never stays home. Currently, she is obsessing over everything for her son’s upcoming bar mitzvah, so please feel free to send any advice to: [email protected] or visit her website at www.mishegasofmotherhood.com.

Published Jan. 23, 2008

Sign up for Your Morning Light