by David Blumenfeld
Image courtesy of David Blumenfeld
He looked so old, with his deeply wrinkled face, watery eyes, bushy white beard and few sprigs of silver hair protruding from his yarmulke. My paternal great-grandfather’s photograph, framed in elegant black with gold trim, hung in our house for as long as I can remember, probably from before my birth in 1937. According to family lore, he lived to have a second bar mitzvah, which, my aunt said, took place in nineteenth-century Romania when a congregant reached 113. Family myth, I thought. People didn’t have accurate records in those little shtetls. Who knew for sure their true birthdate? Any very old man (alas, no women) might have been honored with a second bar mitzvah. Yet I wanted to believe that despite the poverty and destitution, the pogroms, and endless other hazards in those beleaguered ghettos, one old Jew in my family line somehow made it to 113. I still want to believe it. Recently, I learned that --- based on Hebrew Bible 90:10, which says a normal lifespan is 70 years --- those who celebrate a second bar mitzvah actually do so at age 83. Maybe in old Romania, they celebrated it at 113. Or, maybe the custom was 83 even back then, but my great-grandfather lived to 113 anyway. I’ll never know for sure how long he lived but I’ll die hoping he made it to 113 and had a second bar mitzvah. In the meantime, I’m overdue for my second bar mitzvah: I just turned 85.
David Blumenfeld (aka Dean Flowerfield) is a former philosophy professor and associate dean who in retirement returned to writing stories, poetry, and children’s literature, which he abandoned in his thirties to devote full-time to philosophy. His recent publications appear or are forthcoming in The Caterpillar; Best New True Crime Stories: Well-Mannered Crooks, Rogues & Criminals; Mono.; Beyond Words; Balloons Lit. Journal; the other side of hope; Sport Literate; Better Than Starbucks; Smarty Pants; Drunk Monkeys; The 3rd Act; McQueen’s Quinterly; Holyflea!; The Parliament; Bloom; The Dirigible Balloon; Moss Piglet Zine; The Bluebird Word, Lighten Up Online, and various anthologies.