It is not every day that you hear a bar mitzvah boy of 83 years old chant his maftir and haftarah.
It’s definitely not every day that he shares the honour with his 13-year-old self.
But that is exactly what happened in Temple Israel over Shabbat Ki Teitzei. The tradition of a second bar mitzvah goes back to the book of Psalms which declares, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten, or even by reason of strength fourscore years.” (Psalm 90:10)
Based on that verse, the rabbis understood that a life fully lived was one of 70 years, and therefore the clock heads back to zero and you can ‘begin again’. That means that at 83 you are ready for your (second) bar mitzvah.
Rabbi Greg Alexander knew that Harold Sandak-Lewin was coming up to his 83rd birthday and wanted him to do a second bar mitzvah, but Harold was adamant that he would not be able to prepare the whole maftir and haftarah in time.
What Rabbi Greg didn’t know was something absolutely phenomenal. When Harold was preparing for his bar mitzvah 70 years ago, his father Simon took him to a recording studio and had a vinyl LP made of his chanting.
His father was an Ochberg orphan who had come here when he was a child, and his one surviving brother Nachman lived in Israel. He made the recording to send to his brother and his cousin Hymie Rosman in Toronto.
When Harold met Hymie in 1977, he gave Harold his copy of that record and Harold had kept it all these years.
Rabbi Greg says “When he played it to me, I was absolutely gobsmacked. You could hear in crystal clarity the 13-year-old Harold perfectly chanting his verses.”
“So,” explains Rabbi Greg, “we came up with a unique solution. Harold would chant the beginning of his maftir and then his 13-year-old self would take it from there. And that is what we did. With the help of some technology we transferred the verses from LP to tape to phone and when we needed it, 13-year-old Harold chanted his maftir and haftarah in sweet perfection.
What was a bonus was Harold even had the recording of his bar mitzvah declaration that was made in front of the ark all those years ago on 18th Sept 1948, at Vredehoek shul, and holding the Torah proudly this Harold stood in front of the ark while that Harold spoke through the ages.”
This was a bar mitzvah the likes of which I can confidently say has never been seen or heard of before. Mazal Tov to Harold and to his late parents Simon and Naomi who I am sure are looking down with pride at their bar mitzvah boy.” said Rabbi Greg.