I have had five times to practice being an uncle at a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and I have come to the conclusion that it is a lot easier than being the rabbi. Don’t get me wrong. I truly enjoy officiating at the service in which a 13-year-old becomes a B. Mitzvah but there’s a lot of work involved doing so.
At a B. Mitzvah service, there are a lot of moving parts. The student needs to know what sections of the service to lead. The cantorial soloist must know what prayers are sung. Parents, family, and friends need to be ready when they are called upon to participate.
Most of the time, everything goes smoothly. But there are times when they do not. Once in a while, the B. Mitzvah accidentally skips a prayer and the congregation doesn’t know what page we are on. Or a family member is called upon to open our ark and ends up yanking forcefully on the right door without knowing there is a latch to unlock. Or Cousin Manny is assigned to lift the Torah but suddenly has a bad back and a last minute substitution needs to be made.
These mishaps do not approach the level of a catastrophe but it is my responsibility to make sure the service unfolds smoothly. When there is a glitch, I have to act quickly, calmly, and with sensitivity to ensure a sense of order. My ultimate intent is for the student to feel confident and proud of what he or she has accomplished. The service should be a dignified and meaningful celebration of a young person’s participation in Jewish communal life.
This coming Shabbat, I will be celebrating the Bar Mitzvah of my nephew, Ezra. I will have zero responsibilities as a rabbi. But I will have the opportunity to be called to the Torah for an Aliya. It’s a good thing I’ll be joined by two of my brothers and our respective families. That way, if I blow saying the brachas, chances are no one will notice.