It has been years, and I mean many many years since reading a passage in a book made me cry.
But it happened this week.
The book is Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures of Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son by Michael Chabon (who is author of The Yiddish Policeman’s Union and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, amongst others).
I bought the book in Sydney airport on Thursday November 12 – the 11th anniversary of my father’s death (“Yahrzeit”, in the Jewish tradition). So it was particularly fitting that I opened the Chabon book to the last chapter to the following passage:
My oldest child became a bat mitzvah in an afternoon Sabbath service. She read from the Torah in flawless Hebrew, taught us something about what she had just read in poignant English, and was blessed by a woman of readily apparent holiness. And then she was on her way: a daughter of Commandments.
Now, everyone knows – sorry, Maimonides – that there really is only one Commandment and that, sooner or later, we all obey it. Toward the end of every Sabbath service, those in mourning or observing the anniversary of a parent’s death rise for the ancient Kaddish, and as the parent of that day’s bar or bat mitzvah, you can sit there beaming, proud, filled with love and knowing – knowing – that if you have done your job properly, it will not be long before your child will be getting up from a pew somewhere to take note in Aramaic of your own utter absence from the world.
Anyone who has had a child recently bar- or bat-mitzvahed (as I have) and has lost a parent (or two), cannot be moved by this. I was.
(My full review of the book coming up in the Australian Jewish News soon.)