I don’t know why this crossed my mind, but while working out tonight I started thinking about my Bar Mitzvah.
It took place in the Lord’s year of 1985, and was held at the Holiday Inn in Mt. Kisco, N.Y. There was a long kids’ table, and everyone sitting there received a baseball hat. We also gave 45 records as prizes for different games. I recall picking out the songs at the music store inside the Jefferson Valley Mall—”Some Things Are Better Left Unsaid” by Hall and Oates, “To the Beat of the Rhythm of the Night” by DeBarge. On and on and on.
Anyhow, Bar Mitzvahs are supposed to symbolize a coming of age. I was developing into a man (admittedly, one with zits and a painfully greasy voice and zero confidence), and surely there were tons of lessons to be learned.
I, unfortunately, remember but one.
It came not from Rabbi Trachetnberg or my Torah portion; my tutor or my Hebrew school classmates. Nope, the singular lesson from my Bar Mitzvah day was delivered by Arthur, at the time my mom’s 33-year-old first cousin.
Of all the people in our family, Arthur was the one I idolized. He had a really sweet baseball card collection. He drove a cool car. He talked of playing golf with Donald Trump and Willie Mays, and occasionally implied he’d find a way to hook me up with a Ken Griffey, Sr. autograph. Never happened, but that’s OK.
Anyhow, it was thrilling to have Arthur at my Bar Mitzvah. Hell, he was—hands down—the coolest relative I had; a big-talking, fast-walking mover and shaker. Again, I couldn’t get enough of him.
So there I was, at my Bar Mitzvah. The service ended, and everyone retreated to a lounge for a brief cocktail hour. I can still envision Arthur approaching me. I’m not merely saying that—it’s embedded in my mind. He reached out his hand, offered congratulations, smiled. Then, quietly, said to me, “Hey, I’m gonna take off now and play some golf. I’m not really one for these kinds of things.” Hey, no problem! I got it! I wasn’t one for these kinds of things eith—
And then I saw my mom. Hurt. Wounded. Truly saddened. We’re a small family; a Holocaust survival family. This day—which she planned—meant something to her. And, truly, it meant something to me, too.
Though we don’t talk but once every three or four years, I still like Arthur. He’s family. Distant family, but family nonetheless. There are certainly no hard feelings or ill will for a day of nearly three decades ago.
That said, the lesson stuck. An important, invaluable lesson. Namely, people’s feelings are important. And lasting. And though it’s not always the fun thing, or the joyful thing, or the opportune thing, you do all you can to make sure you’re helping someone else’s day go well. You do all you can to place others before yourself.
That’s the lesson from my Bar Mitzvah.