I mentioned on Facebook last night that February 9th was the 25th anniversary of my becoming a bar mitzvah - a son of the commandments. A few of my junior high school classmates who were there commented (both remembered the caricaturist at the party, a detail I had actually forgotten). I gave a d'var Torah last week on my bar mitzvah portion from twenty five years ago (Parshat Yitro, for those who care) and got to reread it again in some detail. I know that as portions go I lucked out, seeing as the Ten Commandments are revealed in Yitro, and I surely did better than one friend of mine who was saddled with Parshat Metzorah, the laws of shunning the leper.
One thing that occurred to me looking back at my bar mitzvah, and reflecting on life in general as I complete my 38th year, was the ultimate influence my bar mitzvah had on my career. At the suggestion of my parents, I did not get many bar mitzvah gifts (I can actually remember them all: a copy of Bartlett's Quotations, a calculator, three shares of Polaroid stock and a trip to see the Normandy invasion beaches, the last of those gifts was from my parents). Most of my guests gave donations to the local hospital and my synagogue. For years random kids from school would tell me that they saw my name on a door at the hospital (there was a plaque in the post surgical wing) and I was always sort of proud of that. I suspect that my guests were fairly generous.
I've been a development professional for thirteen years now and it has only just now dawned on me that perhaps this was foreshadowing of my life to come. I am certainly not the most observant Jew around, there is a long list of commandments that I break by accident or design (I am always pleasant to lepers, for example), but the commandment to do tzedakah, to give charity and to thus make the world a better place, that is at the very core of so much of my life. And honestly, I enjoy it so much. So I did start to become the man I am now twenty five years ago. And I suspect that I still have at least another quarter century of work to do to become the son of the commandments that I really should be, and could be.
I will also note for the record, regarding the photo above, that I no longer own a camel hair jacket, but will still happily stand in front of a nice modern painting and lecture all and sundry on all and sundry.