Somewhere, sometime, a young boy or girl sits together with their bar/bat mitzvah teacher learning the ancient art of singing the trope – the notes devised two thousand years ago to celebrate every syllable of the Torah.
The ‘day of’ arrives – the Bar/Bat mitzvah day – and the thirteen year old boy, or the twelve year old girl walks up to the open scroll, the Five books of Moses, and begins to sing. Carefully they manage the revi’i, a note that modestly ends a Torah thought. They breathe deeply to chant the pazer, a noise that curls up, then goes higher, then dips half way back down.
Today they are a man. Today they are a woman. Their meticulously read Torah reading proves this.
This week I had the distinct honor to interview Sadie Domb, a bar/bat mitzvah teacher, in fact my son’s bar mitzvah teacher. She is a delicate and very sure religious woman. Sadie carries herself as if a character in a Renoir painting – well coiffed, elegant and proud.
Throughout our one and half hour schmooze I learned from Sadie that “I love what I do”. She repeated this sentiment several times. I knew it to be true because her voice rose and strengthened as she said so. She was intent.
“I just love being part of people’s lives and watching them go through a metamorphosis,” Sadie adds.
As we talked, Sadie shared with me that she became a bar/bat mitzvah teacher in 1980. Since then she has taught around 1000 boys and girls their Torah portion and other aspects of Jewish services required for their ‘day of’. “I’m now starting to get the children of my (former) students,” Sadie said.
Sadie continued, that every student, on the first day of lessons, makes an agreement with Sadie they will be diligent about their studies, prioritizing them the way Torah requires them to do. “We working as a team toward the common goal”, Sadie said.
She assures her student she believes in them and “I will get you there” and sure enough she does.
With great pride the bar mitzvah teacher relates to me her memory of the child she taught who has autism. Sadie explained, every student is unique and in this case she taught the boy four songs to sing on the ‘day of’ as well as a dance. It was good. It worked out well because both of them loved to dance.
Sadied recalled the child who was scared of chanting the long and winding Pa’zer, one of the trope(Torah notes) dotting a syllable in the scriptures. Sadie told the student, “lets just try it. You might be surprised.” And sure enough he mastered the sound, was surprised and grew as a person because of it.
I truly loved conducting this interview with Sadie? I did because she is my son’s bar mitzvah teacher and such a person will only come along once in his life and mine. I did because the role of the bar/bat mitzvah teacher is special. They enter into a young person’s life, our offspring, as they transition.
Her responsibility is enormous and that is, to ensure with little hesitancy the bar/bat mitzvah will stand tall on their ‘day of’, pronounce all the words of the holy scripture and manage the challenging trope the way a seasoned ba’al koreh (a regular Torah reader) might.
Sadie is the guardian at the gate of my child’s right of passage. I trusted she would be gentle as my progeny walked through that entry way into adulthood. She was. She is.
Sadie Domb is my son’s bar mitzvah teacher. A magnificent human being and our partner in my child’s, many family’s children, as they become a man, as they become a woman.
Have a listen and remember your own bar/bat mitzvah. Remember your teacher and celebrate them, if you are able, as I am celebrating Sadie Domb and her responsible and loving approach to my son’s ‘day of’ – his bar mitzvah.
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