By Beverly Levitt
Jerusalem at the crack of dawn on Mondays and Thursdays sees dozens of bar mitzvah boys davening by the Western Wall and being taught to wrap tefillin. Many families include a morning prayer service and breakfast for close family and friends.
Isn’t an early morning gathering in a beautiful spot at sunrise a lovely way to start the sacred day of a bar mitzvah celebration?
“In our morning service we recognize the glory of the sunrise and the announcement of it by the rooster, who was given the intelligence to distinguish between night and day,” Rabbi Emeritus Matthew Simon of B’nai Israel Congregation in Rockville, Md., said about the spirituality of a sunrise celebration. “That’s not to say we don’t necessarily appreciate that he awakens us with his cock-a-doodle-doo.”
Pressed about the idea of hosting such a gathering on the morning of the bar mitzvah ceremony, Rabbi Simon said it might be easier on the nerves of the boy and his mother to greet the sunrise Tuesday, Wednesday or Friday before the big event.
Ask 10 rabbis and get 11 answers.
Rabbi Lauren Grabelle-Herrmann of the Society for the Advancement of Judaism on Manhattan’s Upper West Side loved that the bar mitzvah would wake at daybreak on Saturday and recite the first blessing of his big day with an intimate gathering of family and close friends.
“Arising early to do this mitzvah would show his zeal,” she said, suggesting inviting everyone to a beautiful park or other location meaningful to the family. If it’s a chilly morning, the gathering could take place indoors, and everyone could step outside just at the moment of sunrise.
Rabbi Grabelle-Herrmann compared this ritual to the tish, a part of the traditional Jewish wedding ceremony in which all the men gather around the groom and kibitz, making jokes and offering support and advice to alleviate the tension before the marriage.
“This translates perfectly to the bar mitzvah, where the young man would be encircled by the love and community of his parents, siblings and friends,” the rabbi said. “Because of the intimate setting, he would feel their encouragement and excitement more acutely. Besides, what else does a 13-year-old boy have to do at 5 a.m. on the morning of his bar mitzvah?”
Because all celebrations deserve sustenance, here’s a light repast to sweeten the experience.
Assemble all the ingredients in a few wicker picnic baskets, separating the hot foods from the cold. Bring plates, coffee mugs, napkins, silverware (including extra serving pieces) and a tablecloth.
Fruit Salad With Tangerine Juice and Fresh Mint
Makes 6 servings
1 pint blackberries, blueberries or raspberries
2 kiwi fruits, peeled and sliced into circles
1 medium honeydew, cut into balls
1 ripe mango or papaya, peeled and diced
½ cup fresh tangerine juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Handful of fresh mint leaves, stemmed and chopped
¼ cup slivered almonds
Gently mix the fruits and juices in a serving bowl. Sprinkle with mint and almonds. Chill.
Victorian Currant Scones From “Monet’s Table” by Claire Joyes
Makes 12 scones
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
About 5 ounces milk
4 tablespoons butter
½ cup currants
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter. Stir in the currants and enough milk to make a rather soft dough. Roll out to a ½ inch thick. Cut out 2-inch circles with a biscuit cutter or glass and place them on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until well risen and lightly browned. Best served hot with butter and jam.
From cooking teacher Jean Brady
1 pound clementines, left whole
2 cups sugar
If clementines aren’t in season, use the best-quality seedless tangerines or Mandarin oranges. In a 3-quart saucepan, cover the fruit with water. Simmer for 30 minutes. Drain off the water. When the tangerines are cool, cut them into ¼-inch crosswise slices and place the slices and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, the juice thickens and the rind looks candied, about 15 minutes. Pour into a sterilized jar. When cool, cover and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
Makes 4 small cups
1 cup heavy cream, beaten until thick
Dash of pure vanilla extract
2 cups hot coffee
2 teaspoons dark-brown raw sugar
1/8 teaspoon pure anise extract
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons dark chocolate, shaved
To the brewed coffee, add the vanilla, sugar, anise, cinnamon and chocolate. Pour the coffee mixture into a large thermos. At serving time, pour the coffee into cups and garnish with dollops of whipped cream.