THIS WEEKEND we went to a bat mitzvah. For many black families, this peek into Jewish tradition is culture shock. For the Joneses? It's old hat.
We've been to so many bat mitzvahs that LaVeta is starting to hum along to the tunes. Little Solomon has started checking out the young men's yarmulkes. And Eve? Well, she's 13, so she's eyeing the bat mitzvah benefits.
Having been to three bat mitzvahs so far, Eve has come to understand that girls her age who become "bat mitzvah" have the same rights as adults, are morally responsible for their actions and, best of all, get lots and lots of stuff.
Is there work involved? Yes. You have to learn Scripture in Hebrew. You have to be able to relate that Scripture to everyday life and you have to be able to overlook the fact that your non-Jewish friends have no idea why you're doing this.
Well, some of them.
Eve is among the faction of non-Jewish girls who gets it. She understands that at a bat mitzvah, there is a girl her age who is considered an adult. There is a girl her age who is considered responsible. There is a girl her age who is collecting untold treasures from relatives who fly in from far and wide.
From the outside looking in, this seems easy. Memorize some Scripture, sing some tunes, kick it with the old folks, and at the end of the night you're a woman - and a prosperous one at that.
If a girl can spend the kind of time she needs to learn the full richness of her culture, she is showered with gifts by beaming relatives.
We've seen the kind of gift-giving that most folks experience only at weddings. We've seen girls get trips abroad. We've seen girls get bank accounts. We've seen girls get straight-up paid.
And Eve, being the capitalist she is, has posed the question any kid worth her salt would ask: How can I be down?
Having had Jewish friends and family since the day she was born, my daughter has had time to see the lay of the land. And while I don't think she'd permanently toss away her own religion in order to get a bat mitzvah, I think she might consider taking a day off.
I know this because Eve has seen enough bat mitzvahs to admire the culture, to weigh the benefits, to see the upside and respect the process.
Like Eve, we all admire the coming-of-age process that the bat mitzvah represents. But, unlike Eve, we're not 13-year-old girls. We can't have the celebration, but Eve could. I don't know if I could handle it, though, because if Eve had bat mitzvah-size gifts in her possession, she might turn into an entirely different person. I can see it now.
"Eve, I'm going to need you to wash the dishes."
"I'm sorry, Dad, I'm never washing another dish in this house."
"Who do you think you're talking . . . "
"Let me introduce you to Inga. She's my new personal assistant. She'll be taking care of all my household chores while I'm shopping online."
"Now, wait a minute young lady!"
"I don't have a minute, Dad. I just pulled in 20 grand from my bat mitzvah. I'm going to do a little shopping, finish up my homework and fly out to Vancouver to see Justin Bieber. We're an item now."
At that moment, my head would explode, spilling daddy brains all over the house. Therefore, to avoid ruining the carpeting, we'll skip the bat mitzvah for now.
By the time she's 25 or so, maybe Eve will be able to handle a wheelbarrow full of money. For now, she can stick with the cash I give her for allowance.
It might not be enough to charter a private jet to Vancouver, but it's enough to keep my little girl out of trouble.