Over the last few years, my wife and I have been to a total of 15,462 Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, which seems about average for our peer group. According to Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 Hour Rule” on how long it takes to achieve world class expertise, I believe I passed the minimum requirements for a PhD in the Bar Mitzvah Arts about 23,000 hours ago.
An exaggeration? Perhaps a bit. But as the male head of household of a Jewish family in the Northeast United States, it’s fair to say that I’ve been to my share of Bar Mitzvahs. Perhaps you have too. But if not, I believe you could benefit from my store of knowledge, especially if you have a 13 year-old child. Be forewarned: all 13 year-olds and their families in certain geographic regions enter a Twilight Zone-esque parallel and confusing universe known as “The Bar Mitzvah Circuit”. This will require not only a complete commitment of your free time, energy and financial resources, but also a twisted understanding of human nature that you’ve never seen before, and likely never will again. Before you or your children step one foot out of that Volvo and towards the synagogue doors, learn from me. I’ve assembled the definitive rookie’s guide, which I’m calling YOUR FIRST HORA: THE 90 (GIVE OR TAKE) THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT ATTENDING YOUR FIRST BAR MITZVAH.
I’ll work roughly chronologically through an average experience. Feel free to jump ahead if you’re stuck in any one category.
- Several weeks before the event, a printed invitation on paper stock roughly as thick as a strip steak and with enough stamps on the envelope to kill George Constanza’s wife 20 times over will arrive at your home.
- Pay careful attention to the opening of the invitation: the amount of enjoyment you will ultimately experience at the event is inversely proportional to the amount of glitter that falls out of the envelope when you open it.
- There will likely be a reply card included in the invitation. Pay no mind to the fact that the RSVP date is only two days away and is a clear indication that you are on the party’s B List and are only invited because Aunt Martha can’t make it in from Chicago because her rheumatoid arthritis is acting up. Make a note to order premium spirits at the open bar later.