Saturday, 3 March 2012

A Spring Saturday and a Mitzvah

So today was my great-nephew's Bar-Mitzvah. Unbelievable to think that my nephew is old enough to have a son who is old enough to be Bar Mitzvah. Thankfully the rain held off while we traipsed from the Sephardi Synagogue (no, not that one) to the Ashkenazi Synagogue. They were one opposite the other but otherwise difficult to tell apart. Looking at the names on the outside of the first building, I realised that no, this was the wrong place. The sky was threatening but we stayed dry as we walked across the concourse and entered the building.

The most amazing thing about going to synagogue, shul, temple, if you are of an Ashkenazi background, is that you could be in almost any other city throughout the world. I think that the original synagogue architect drew up plans that are to be followed ad infinitum. All synagogues appear to be designed in order to look practically identical. The colours of the interior, the wood, the smell of books and velvet and wine. They somehow bring back such memories of childhood. Some kind of nostalgia of being small and having someone care for you.

When I was a child, our synagogue, in the East End of London, was often the scene of some kind of bitter desecration. Many was the time that my father, along with other members of the congregation, would be on watch against some kind of fascist. The last and final desecration of our beautiful, tiny (in retrospect) shul was arson and it was burned to a crisp some time after it had been closed down. The membership had dwindled away and mass immigration into the area had entirely changed its landscape. The land is now used for a block of flats. One of the benefits about being here is that burning places of worship rarely, rarely happens. The less so, the better.

It was a lovely affair, however, and the Bar Mitzvah boy did extremely well, his voice as yet unbroken, singing his portion clearly and tunefully, as have done many millions before him. Coincidentally, it must have been the exact same portion as Zach's, as the birthdays are one day apart and Zach's too was held during a leap year.

This year, many years after his Bar Mitzvah, Zach is waiting for other things. One is for the Mac that is, thankfully, under warranty and, therefore, won't cost the earth to fix. The other is for a day a few months hence that we never thought would happen. In fact there are two days that we are aiming for. How time and people can heal. How people on continents apart can somehow come across one another and heal each other.

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