(Interrupting Yom Kippur, once again.)
This morning at services a remarkable boy and his amazing family celebrated his Bar Mitzvah with a new tradition: dramatized commentary on the Torah portion coached by the folks at Storahtelling, who have re-invented the art of traditional ritual theater and of whom I'm a big fan. Today was Vayetze, the story of Jacob, his father-in-law, angels and ladders, and lots of weird goats. In between each of the seven aliyot, the Bar Mitzvah boy and and his cousins and grandmother spoke in the voices of Jacob, Reuben, and Dinah (all written by the boy himself) to offer their own perspectives on what was going on with this complex, troubled, and very real family.
It was mesmerizing to witness words of Torah come to life through the eyes of an extraordinarily perceptive 13-year-old. Then the Torah service ended and we started to pray the Musaf Amidah, which begins communally and concludes with many minutes of silent prayer. The tradition at my synagogue is to finish that second section with a gentle melody to bring us out of ourselves and back to the group; the cantor, as usual, played his keyboard softly, a tune that sounded familiar. I hummed along, but couldn't place it. He beckoned the Bar Mitzvah to the microphone, who began in a sweet, soulful voice:
"Imagine all the people, living life in peace..."
We all smiled and started to sing along. The words and simple, beautiful melody did not seem at all incongruous in the middle of a religious service. When we got to "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one," I thought about how well John Lennon, a direct descendant of Jacob if ever there was one, would have fit in at my synagogue.