So last night, after Yom Kippur ended and we broke the fast, we came home, put the kids to bed, and settled in… with my tikun (Torah readers’ bible) and another plain-jane copy of Etz Chayim.
This coming Saturday, my wife’s reading Torah, in honor of the twentieth anniversary of her Bat Mitzvah.
I’ve been ba’al kriyat haTorah – a Torah reader – since my Bar Mitzvah. (The professional hazard of growing up as the son of a Hebrew school teacher who also did private lessons for Bar/Bat Mitzvah.) Two years ago, I became a gabbai – one of those lay leaders who stands beside the scroll and annoyingly points out when the reader has made a mistake. So while I can almost sight-read from my tikun, my wife can’t, so we’re going through the exercise of learning her portion a line at a time.
Doing this got us into a mode to talk about the Monster, religious school, and synagogue life in general.
Clearly, this year, he’s not quite ready for religious school. We’re very fortunate that our shul has a special-needs education program that is actually inclusion with special services. However, we’re just not sure how he’d cope with still more things thrown at him at the moment, and with him still just getting back into the swing of things at his regular school classroom, we somewhat figure that a year’s delay doesn’t hurt things. That’s still more than enough time for him to learn what he needs to know before he’s expected to have his Bar Mitzvah.
And going to synagogue has been hit-or-miss for a lot of things, really. Our shul is one of the very rare ones where there is a relatively sound-proofed quiet room that looks into the sanctuary and has the audio from the bimah pumped into it, so adults with young, fussy children (or louder ones with Autism) can go and still daven while not interfering with the services. Some of our co-congregants don’t quite “get it” regarding the Monster yet either, though, so I’ve gotten accustomed to the “you’re a horrible parent for not quieting down your child” glares that I get from certain sectors. (Those are the ones whose children get annoyingly corrected when they’re reading Torah. 😉 Trust me, be nice to your gabbai’im.)
But then there’s that pesky Bar Mitzvah thing, waiting, eight years from now.
I don’t have a doubt that the Monster will have a Bar Mitzvah. Not in the slightest. I just don’t know what kind of ceremony it’s going to take the shape of yet.
I… don’t remember very well what we used to do when I was a kid, for children with special needs, aside from a vague (and potentially erroneous) memory that they often took Saturday afternoon slots for their ceremonies, or Monday/Thursday/holiday mornings. And, from where I stand, I’d still be cool with the idea of a Shabbos afternoon ceremony if that helps with his ability to function. Since we have eight years to worry about this, I figure he’ll be a wholly different person by the time we have to start talking dates in five years…
My wife, though, worries more I think about what the ceremony will be like – will he have friends that he can invite? Will it be more than family and the kids of our friends attending? Will he enjoy it? Will he understand what it’s about?
We’ll see what happens, on all of those fronts, as we move forward.