Monday, February 22, 2010


Circus Israel recently attended the bar mitzvah of a spirited 13-year old in Toronto. In the Jewish tradition, this ceremony marks the passage of boy-to-man, as the burgeoning male recites foundational text to his congregation for the first time, then discourses about its meaning. He then assumes responsibility for his own adherence to Jewish law. He can now form binding contracts and get married. This doesn’t mean he can actually marry anywhere in North America, or have lawful sexual relations. Or execute a cell phone contract. Or drive a car, own a gun, order a drink, leave school, consent to medical care, vote, buy real estate, play organized sports or stay out late if his parents say no. But that’s not the point. This is our tradition, it sets us apart, and Chinese kids under ten ruled dynasties. In some cultures, he’d already be a dad. In any case, after this particular, newly-minted Toronto man finished his Torah recitation, he offered the following reflections (captured on a Sony ICD-UX71Digital Voice Recorder – the official digital voice recorder of Circus Israel).

Today, I am a man. OK, first I want to thank my parents, Norman and Ruth, and of course Rabbi Zonenshein-Imeibachdor, and my tutor, Bogie, and really like everybody who came to my Bar Mitzvah. Some of you came from far away and that’s really nice. I wish Zade and Bubbe Krakpotkin could be here today, too. I didn’t know them, but I know their spirit is here with us. And I even want to thank my sister Leah, who helped me so much. Yeah, right. Leah, it’s your turn next year, and payback is gonna be sweet. And that’s actually the subject of my D’var Torah. I know I’m supposed to talk about the parashah from the service, but I kind of relate to this a little better.

Like, I’m 13 now, and I was really thinking about what it means to be a Jew in today’s world. You’ve all really taught me a lot, and we’ve been to Israel twice, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got it figured out. It’s revenge. I mean, people say a lot of stuff and everything, about the culture and the Torah and Hebrew and all that. But the most important part is revenge. Like my mom says, “After what we’ve been through, we’re not gonna be the nice one now.” And I think that’s, like, really true. It’s like everybody else thinks there should be this big Civil Rights Law for the whole world, and maybe that’s a good idea, but not till we finish getting even.

I know this isn’t the coolest thing to say. You don’t just come out and say we want vengeance. But that’s what we want. You can see it. I mean it’s not just my second-cousin Aaron with the price tag policy in the territories. Uncle Alan’s the brains in the family - no offense to everyone else, but a psychoanalyst in New York, that’s a no-brainer. I meant that pun. Anyway, he’s always helping these liberal causes and he never raises his voice. Even his head hardly moves. He just studies you, like he’s doing to me now. But when the IDF toasted Gaza, you should’ve seen him. Like, “Crush ‘em! Wipe ‘em out!” And Aunt Rachel, too. The art dealer. Totally pumped. Like hyenas on a carcass, those two! I mean, you never see that at the High Holidays, or anytime really. I was, like, wow, they rock! It was Jewish payback time!

As far as I can tell, we can’t get enough revenge. I just saw on TV about that Hamas guy the Mossad killed in Dubai. More revenge, right? What else are we supposed to do with Hamas, talk to ‘em?

VOICE: Blood libel!!

It’s Great-Uncle Shlomo! Awesome! For my friends who don’t know, Uncle Shlomo’s Mr. Blood Libel. Tell him the sun’s up - blood libel. There’s dandruff on your coat – blood libel. You missed the Early Bird Buffet at Denny’s-

VOICE: Blood libel!

You’re the best, Uncle Shlomo! And that’s revenge, too, right? You’ve got to avenge a blood libel. Something that awful, you have to. Even if it’s not really that awful, once you say it is, it is. Then you can do whatever you want. You’re never wrong. It’s just retribution.

Man, the Jewish People are like revenge addicts. For the Egyptians and the Romans and the Spaniards and the Germans and the Czar and all the rest of ‘em. We just take it out on the Arabs. And they can’t do anything about it. Sweet. Who’d wanna give that up?

Uh-oh. My parents are giving me that look. Hey, I’m a man today. I’m the man today. This’s my revenge for all those boring classes. No, I’m kidding. It was really fun. The 10 plagues of Egypt. I know ‘em by heart, in order - blood, frogs, lice, flies, dead animals, boils, hail, locusts, darkness, first-born children. Vengeance, baby. I’ve seen “Inglorious Basterds” like six times. Next Halloween, I’m going as my favorite Basterd - Bear Jew. Batter up!

Hey, is this microphone still on? Mom, c’mon. The rabbi said I should tell an anecdote to illustrate my point…No, I promise I’ll talk about the culture. The culture of Jewish revenge!...Fine, I don’t need a mike. My voice’s changing anyway. So… there’s this kid in my lunch period at school and all of a sudden he said, “Dude, you got enough food stuck in your braces to make a sandwich,” and everyone laughed. Real funny. So I got this totally stupid ad about erections and I put the kid’s name on it and slipped it in this really tough kid’s locker. I even drew a heart with Cupid’s arrow. It makes me laugh just describing it. So the tough kid punched the other kid in the eye and they both got suspended. It was awesome! This kid’d really embarrassed me and I got him back like twenty times over. It felt great! And nobody could prove I did it. I mean, everybody kind of knew, but I just like kept it ambiguous.

So, on this day of my bar mitzvah, I conclude that payback is great. I really want to do it again. I hope somebody else messes with me, and I hope I don’t have to wait a long time. It really gets you organized. And if the world really wants to understand the Jewish People, it better understand that’s how we roll.

Okay, let’s get this party started! There’s breast of chicken and an awesome DJ. Mazel tov!

Maybe, if the BM Boy ever really grows up, a process that can never be merely assumed these days, the following words will resonate with him: "As a Jew born in the US and steeped, like other Jews of my post-Holocaust generation, in an ethic of fairplay and justice, I have been distressed by the continuing and escalating belligerance of Israel. The use of Israeli helicopter gunships against defenceless Palestinian cities, villages and refugee camps angered me. I could not remain silent. Indeed, I have begun to see that these very machines whose sole purpose is one of destruction and death have come to define contemporary Jewish life. In my mind's eye, I have a vision of replacing the Torah scrolls in the Ark of the Covenant, that focus Jews on God, justice and peace, with a helicopter gunship that speaks of power and might without ethics or morality. What we do, we worship." (Marc H. Ellis, Out of the Ashes: The search for Identity in the 21st century, 2002, p 1)
Sadly, bigots only have a sense of humor when it suits them. There's not only MERC, here, but some jackass on Usenet who has quoted your entire entry - without permission, of course - as if it were a real event.
Hey, ICK, Circus Israel is the reality. And you thought it was The Jerusalem Post or The New York Times? More fool you. ICK... Mm, suits you!
David (if that is your name):

I have been to literally dozens of Bar/Bat/Bnei Mitvahs, and not once has the parents stooped to serving cheap chicken breasts. Come one! It's Prime Rib and Salmon, with chocolate fountains and open bars! Your utter ignorance on the proper menu shows you are really a Goy, I suspect, and are just pretending to be member of the Tribe.


So Demosthenes the Greek, if your only complaint is with chicken breasts, we can only conclude that everything else rings true for you.
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