Becoming an adult at Temple Emanu-El

Becoming an Adult at Temple Emanu-El

Becoming an adult at Temple Emanu-El

NEW YORK - “We are on the corner of Fifth and 65 Street in 2024. But now, we are going back to Mount Sinai,” Rabbi Sarah Reines said from the pulpit of Temple Emanu-El during a Shabbat service.

For at Mount Sinai, said Reines, Moses received a sacred scroll that would be passed down through the generations.

This was the cue for 13-year-old Gavin Matlin, who up until this point had been sitting in a chair to the right of the ark, wearing a suit and a tallit, his feet dangling a few inches above the floor. Gavin stood and moved to the front of the bimah.

Reines pulled open the doors of the ark and retrieved the Torah while Gavin’s family — his sister, parents and grandparents, all dressed in trim black suits and dresses — ascended the stairs to the bimah and lined up next to him.

“This is the Torah, a light for our eyes, a lamp for our way,” sang the congregation.

“Our ancestors roamed that desert so many thousands of years ago and they were given this great gift,” Reines said, carrying the Torah scrolls wrapped in a mantle of red velvet with gold tassels. “And you are all here now because someone in your family line loved Judaism and loved their children enough to pass on this gift. Gavin, now it comes to you.”

Reines presented the Torah to Gavin’s grandfather, who, in a sign of veneration, extended a hand to grasp the velvet mantle. Reines stepped forward to the boy’s grandmother, who did the same. The rabbi walked down the line of family, pausing so that each member could touch the Torah.

And so, from generation to generation, the Torah was handed down to Gavin on his Bar Mitzvah.

When the scrolls reached Gavin, he seemed to take in the weight of all that was wrapped in the mantle before him — physically, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible are contained in the scrolls, but in a broader sense, Jewish law and tradition and Matlin’s responsibility to the Jewish community are also there.

After a moment’s pause, he reached out to touch the mantle, before turning and springing toward his sister in a hug.

The boy, a boy no longer in Jewish eyes, embraced each member of his family and walked side by side with Reines to the pulpit, where he read a Torah portion from the Book of Exodus and gave a short speech. Reines then welcomed him as an adult member of the congregation.