Magic Jewball

all signs point to no


I’m an adult now

Filed under : Judaism
On May 30, 2007
At 4:55 pm
Comments : 24

And now, a post to distract myself from all the new interns walking around here in their “I didn’t realize they dressed down at record labels” suits and ties. Since this past weekend was my niece’s Bat Mitzvah, I thought I’d clarify the B-Mitz concept for those who got their knowledge of Judaism from the Krusty the Clown episodes of the Simpsons (not that there’s anything wrong with that).

So let’s explore some of the myths that surround this event.

1. You’re not Jewish unless/until you have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

Oh sweet fancy Moses, no. First off, the B-Mitz (abbreviation not found in the Talmud) is like a birthday. Whether or not you have a slick party, it happens and you reach that milestone (as someone who hates parties but likes birthdays, I’m grateful). And second, being Jewish happens at birth or conversion and no party or milestone is going to change that. The Reform do now consider a Jewish upbringing to help your Jewishness if you have only a Jewish father but the other denominations don’t accept that and even for the Reform it’s new.

2. A Bar/Bat Mitzvah happens when you’re 13.

Actually for girls it’s 12 (and a day) but people whose kids go to Hebrew School don’t realize that the school has tricked them into continuing their daughters’ Jewish education for an extra year. Bonus! Not that your Jewish education is supposed to end when you reach the age of responsibility anyway, but since many people do treat it as merely training for the B-Mitz, Hebrew Schools were forced to use desperate measures.

3. When you hit B-Mitz age you’re a man! Or a woman! (depending on your chromosomal structure)

Kind of. It’s actually the age when you’re responsible for fulfilling mitzvot (commandments, not good deeds – another frequent misunderstanding). And it’s the age when if you don’t do the right thing, it’s on your head and not your parents’. So think of that before you leave nasty messages on your friends’ MySpace pages, Jewish tweens.

4. Unless you have a giant event with a “theme” you don’t really love Judaism.

Actually, the theme is supposed to be Judaism. The rest shows you love parties. Yes, I could rant on and on about this but I’m sure everyone knows what I mean. If you had a giant theme event, I’m not mad atcha or anything, especially if I ate a lot of sushi there. But I was probably snickering behind my maki rolls.

5. $36 is a good gift because it’s cheaper than $40.

Technically, that is an excellent thing for the gift-giver, but it’s more because multiples of 18 are considered positive as the letters/numbers that make up the number 18 spell “chai” (life, not tea).

So now you know, mazal tov! Should you have any other Bar/Bat Mitzvah questions, please feel free to comment.

Title comes from the excellent song by The Pursuit of Happiness, sadly not available on Napster.


24 Comments for this post

  1. Sarpon says:

    Ha! At my writing class last week, I read a story in which one character said to another “But you were bat mitzvah-ed!” except it came out of my mouth as “buh-mitzvah-ed.” My Hungarian Catholic writing teacher helpfully informed me that for a girl, it should be bat. Now I can tell him that not only did I have it written right anyway, the J-Ball says “b-mitz” is an acceptable, though not Talmudic, abbreviation.

  2. Becca says:

    It sure beats BM, which I had to resist using.

  3. Lydia says:

    Everything I know about b-mitz came from the movie “Keeping Up With The Steins.” I was forced to watch it on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

  4. Soxy says:

    I’m having a really hard time commenting without gloating about the sad state of the Yankees (Petite let Tampa Bay steal home, for Jimmy’s sake), but I’m dropping off the Top Commenters list, so I had to say something. I’ll go back to being a good sport now.

  5. Yeah, the only one I ever saw was in the movie version of Starsky and Hutch where Stiller shot the pony. I know, I am pathetic.

  6. Becca says:

    The B-Mitz, well-represented in popular culture. And no one’s yet mentioned the one featured in Seinfeld (shiksappeal!)

    And now, an editorial:

    I would just like to point out that despite the fact that I have an entire blog to say what I wish, and that many times the Yankees have been in a good place in the standings or have won a 5-game sweep at Fenway, that I have never once gloated or put down another team. In fact, I allowed an entire Mets page to be on my site for two months to support charity and posted a Red Sox logo to thank Mr. Jan for doing some Photoshop work for me. I’ve never deleted an anti-Yankees comment or fought with a heckler (and I’ve had some). Because that’s how I roll! Also, the fact that I’m self-deprecating about myself and my team isn’t supposed to be interpreted as an invitation to pile on. I can’t help but believe that people who truly love their teams concentrate on that team which they love and not how good or bad other teams are. Just wanted to throw that out there.

  7. Celia says:

    A commonly-used abbreviation on Party 411 is “barmi” (plural, “barmis”).

  8. Alex says:

    Becca, all that’s very true, and I have tried hard to curtail my own gloating since you pointed it out to me, but I gotta say, you can really take the fun out of schadenfreude. 😉

    Also, wrt barmis, I might suggest adding:

    6. All bar or bat mitzvah receptions feature shrimp cocktail.

    Actually, in Maryland some folks hold that it is acceptable to substitute crab cakes for shrimp.

  9. Becca says:

    Isn’t barmy, British slang for crazy? That works well.

    I’m not starting with the shrimp thing. That would involve ranting and I’m not in a ranty mood.

    And yes, not only do I consider gloating bad form but in a sport where even a championship team loses one out of every three games, it’s just impractical.

  10. Sarpon says:

    Some people just don’t understand rivalries, that’s all. All the zest of a blood feud with only a fraction of the fatalities.

  11. Becca says:

    Shockingly, I’m not big on blood feuds either.

    But really, there is as much such a thing as being a bad winner as there is being a bad loser.

  12. Alex says:

    Really? ‘Cause I had been thinking about “blood feud” as a possible theme for the next bat mitzvah. Does that mean you wouldn’t come?

  13. KP says:

    I didn’t realize Moses was sweet and fancy.
    Thank you JBall!

  14. Soxy says:

    Although my comment doesn’t indicate it at all, I normally am just happy when the Sox win, period. Sometimes I’m happy when they just don’t suck. I hate those shirts that say “I support two teams: the Red Sox and whoever beats the Yankees.” I guess I just got carried away in the hype of this season, even though I do realize its only May. Maybe I’m permantly scarred from the “1918” chants.

    I’m pretty sure that my snarky and uncalled for comment will cost the Red Sox the entire series at Fenway this weekend. Karma and all. 🙂

  15. Becca says:

    Alex, what kind of sushi will you be serving?

    KP, that’s from Seinfeld (of course). 🙂

    Soxy, I tell you what, let’s hug it out and your karma will be just fine. Wait, no, I don’t want that. We’ll just stick with hugging it out then. You’re still my favorite popcorn eating, marathon running, newlywed Red Sox fan.

    And Sarpon and Alex are on your side of the fence about me being a killjoy, sports rivalries being fun, blood feuds, etc. So you all can duke it out amongst yourselves as I sit in the prim corner. Of course, it’ll have to wait for the next interleague series but there’s plenty of season left. For some of you winners, anyway.

  16. Hold on just a minute there, Alex. Isn’t crab trafe? Granted, my knowledge of Jewish tradition is limited to what my Internet friends, particularly Becca, Sparks, and Oxo, have told me but I think crab would make a rabbi spin his head and spew split pea soup.

    As a recovering Catholic, I’m really more familiar with those traditions. I went through confirmation before my rapid (and probably, welcome) exit from the Masses (hah!). The only food rule I recall from the catechism is no meat on Fridays. Much easier. But no mandated blintzes.

  17. KP says:

    Oh man of course! Seinfeld! How did I forget that?

    Again, thank you JBall!

  18. Alex says:

    Ima, no, crabs aren’t kosher. The rule is that if it lives in the sea, it has to have both fins and scales. So, crabs are treif, and so are shrimp, lobsters, scallops, squid, sea urchins, octopi, eels and catfish, among others. But for some reason, many, many people serve shrimp cocktail at barmi receptions. A rabbi I used to know told a story about a grandmother in his synagogue seriously saying to him, “But, Rabbi, of course shrimp are kosher. I eat shrimp at bar mitzvahs all the time.” Finally he said to himself, “Forget it, I’m arguing with an idiot.” So, substituting crab cakes in Maryland is kind of a joke. But not so much any more, I guess.

    Becca, it’s not that I think you’re wrong about gloating. As I said, I’m trying to be more like you in this respect. I have realized that I can still feel pleasure in the misfortunes of teams I despise, but inwardly, and without adding to the unhappiness of people I like who happen to root for those teams owing to accidents of geography.

    Also, I’d say there is something of a backhanded compliment in gloating. Some teams just aren’t very gloat-worthy. Nobody’s just bustin’ to rub Royals’ fans’ noses in it, or Devil Rays’ fans’ or Nationals’ fans’ noses. But when a team that has won approximately 387 World Series in the last century, all of them seemingly somehow at the expense of your own team–when such a team falls on hard times, it is qualitatively different. Maybe not a justification for gloating, but, somehow, different.

  19. Soxy says:

    I’ll break my no-touching rule to hug it out with you to restore what is right in the universe. But no lingering or back patting, okay?

    Well put, Alex.

  20. Alex says:

    Thanks, Soxy. It comes naturally: I got interested in the Red Sox in 1975, and I grew up in the midwest, rooting for the Royals. Back then, the Royals were good (George Brett, Hal McRae, etc.), and they used to win the AL West every year, only to lose the pennant to the Yankees. (I’d still like to punch Chris Chambliss in the nose for that home run in ’76.) Later, I moved to Maryland. Seems like the Yankees have been screwing things up for some team I follow for as long as I can remember.

    But I try not to hold Becca personally responsible for it.

  21. Sarpon says:

    Alex, when a team wins 387 Series you have to figure they’ve been around the horn and screwed things up for every other team on the planet. It wouldn’t surprise me if there are Miami Dolphins and Manchester United fans with reasons to curse the Yankees.

  22. Becca says:

    Yes, yes, I know everyone loves hating the Yankees. But get your own blogs!

    Sorry, I’m a little hungover. Crazy NY bloggers. They forced me to drink, I swear!

  23. Alex says:

    Hmm…in June, the Yankees are 7-2 (and winning while I’m writing this), and the Red Sox are 4-5. The Yankees have made up 3 games in 10 days.

    It’s a good thing that I’ve been following the Red Sox long enough to understand that this is all owing to the Cosmic Plan for Red Sox Heartbreak, and not to gloating. Because I’d hate for anybody to blame Soxy. Sadly, this is just bigger than any one person.

  24. Becca says:

    Oh, I’ve stopped thinking about the Red Sox. It’s all about Detroit now. But I did save this screenshot of my Mac desktop widget just for the name under the Saturday win. I’m hoping I can sell it on eBay.

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