Just Schmuesing

As the day of my Bar Mitzvah celebration draws nearer, I currently find myself in a place of serenity and peace. I do not feel that I am “late” to the party in terms of celebrating 20 years after the typical date. I am sitting down nightly, going through the service order in the Siddur, reading my Torah and Haftorah portions. I take breaks with my Abraham Joshua Heschel book “God in Search of Man.” I read the Torah portion for the week so I can relate to the Rabbi’s upcoming Friday sermon on a deeper level. I put my beautiful son to bed and watch a couple of reruns of “The Office” on his tablet. I go to work in the morning and I try to help people in some way with their mental health and well-being. I sweat at the gym, and I follow my hapless New York Jets football team as they struggle through another dismal season. I bring my laptop into the kitchen, and sing to karaoke tracks for the sake of singing. My beautiful and pregnant wife is soundly asleep next to me as the snoring of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Poodle named Adam creates background noise. 

All of the aforementioned aspects of my life, and so many more, will be present with me on the bimah on the morning of my Bar Mitzvah. At the age of 13, I don’t think I would have been able to appreciate any of this, because life was simply not as rich. I am a Jew by birth, and practicing by choice, and that is a precious thing to me. I try to live Jewishly all the time, and when I hear my son talk about mitzvot or say, “Do we have Temple today!” in an excited voice, I feel whole. Of course, not every moment is feel-good, but the ability to embrace heartache, challenge, and hardship is ingrained into the Jewish psyche and way of life. Even when struggling, I am able to struggle in a Jewish context (sometimes I kvetch). In the Mishkan T’Filah, a part of one of my favorite readings says, “I am a Jew because for Israel, the world is not completed; we are completing it.” There will always be more books to read, more mitzvot to engage in, more people to help, more bumps and bruises to kiss, and more mistakes to learn from. Judaism has challenged me to view the living of life as a focus on means, as opposed to ends. What am I doing right now, and what can I do to appreciate the moment, and also make the moment better for someone else? 

As I stand upon the bimah soon, I will try to appreciate every beautiful moment as it happens. I am celebrating every day, but it is certainly meaningful to do it in a formal and traditional way. All who will be present, and many who won’t be, have contributed in a profound way to who I am, and where I am now. 

I have decided that this is a good place to stop writing because I don’t want this post to turn into a spoiler of my D’var Torah (or Drasha for us Ashkenazim). Also, I really need to start listening to the Kedushah on Youtube, so I can be more prepared for singing it on the big day. Adam the Poodle is stretched out on his back, and it’s awfully adorable. Remember, it’s all the little things…



Published by Joshua Gray

I am Joshua Gray. I am a husband, father, not-for-profit-worker by day, and a former professional actor/singer. I am very active in the Jewish community in my area, helping to teach at religious school on Sundays, while also serving on the board of trustees at my local temple. My relationship with Judaism is a joy of mine, and I find great pleasure in studying texts and learning more and more Hebrew. I still enjoy warbling tunes, and I even got to sing the Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur, which was a definite highlight. Please feel free to contact me with any ideas for topics, conversations, or general inquiries. Shalom!

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