His Bar Mitzvah; My Religious Crisis

How do you send your child to Hebrew school when you hated it?

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I know some people in the Valley who hire a private tutor for their kids and the kids of a few other families. Elijah would probably like getting together with his friends to talk Old Testament stories at someone's house. But then what? Who will conduct the service, and where? Who's going to really teach them to read Hebrew? These questions make me tired.

At some point in the next year and a half, I'm going to have to make a decision. Right now, Elijah is six, and we can still let it slide at my current routine of making him read the Four Questions in English at seder, lighting the Hanukkah candles as a family, and singing the motzi over bread together on Friday nights. But soon enough, we're going to face more complicated theological questions, and I don't know if I'm dad enough to handle them.

The other day in the car--because we're always in the car--Elijah said to me: "Daddy, what are all the Jewish holidays?"

"Well," I said, "there's Passover and Hanukkah."

"I know those," he replied.

"And Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah."

"Of course," he said.

That answer both surprised and pleased me, so I pressed forward.

"And Purim."

"What's that?"

"You know, the one they did at your preschool where you dress up in costume and you talk about Queen Esther and her wicked cousin. Also, you make a special house out of leaves in your backyard."

"No, I don't remember."

"OK, we'll work on that."

"What other holidays?"

"Well, now we're starting to get down the list. There's Tu B'Shvat, which is a kind of tree-planting and nature festival."

"OK."

"And Simchas Torah."

"Oh yeah, they make a joke about that on Top Secret."

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Neal Pollack

Neal Pollack is an American satirist, novelist, short story writer, and journalist. His books include The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, Never Mind the Pollacks, Beneath the Axis of Evil, and Alternadad.