Tag Archives: bar mitzvah

The American bar mitzvah, 1887

“And during the time when the Hungarian or Polish Jewish youngster was brought to a level where he could understand the Prophets, and listen to rigorous biblical and legal studies, the American youngster is merely brought to the magnificent level of being able to stammer a few words of English-style Hebrew, to pronounce the blessing over the Torah, and to chant half the maftir from a text with vowels and notes on the day he turns thirteen — a day that is celebrated here as the greatest of holidays among our Jewish brethren. From that day onward a youngster considers his teacher to be an unwanted article.”

Moses Weinberger, Jews and Judaism in New York, 1887 (Jonathan D. Sarna, trans.)
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Fill up my cup. Mazel Tov.

It has come to my attention that there are those who will deny the unstoppable pop genius that is the Black Eyed Peas’ international megahit “I Gotta Feeling.”

I want to speak only about the line “Fill up my cup — mazel tov!”  Amazing.  Amazing! You start with “fill up my cup” — which at this moment in the song reads as a cup of beer at a party or maybe even a cup (glass?) of champagne at a sophisticated nightclub.  And then with just two words the song pulls aside the curtain and says — you are at a bar mitzvah. Look to your left — the man dancing there is 75.  Look to your right — the girl dancing there is 12.  Look down at the cup — it’s a kiddush cup.

It’s a moment of incredible self-knowledge and assurance:  the band saying:  We’re here for one reason, and that’s to outdo “Celebration,” and write the greatest wedding/barmitzvah song ever made.  If you’re listening to this at a bar mitzvah, this is your song.  And if you actually are listening to this while drinking champagne at a sophisticated nightclub, guess what — you’re dancing to the same song as the septuagenarians in the Marriott Ballroom 3, and you can’t stop yourself.

I know of nothing like it in contemporary pop music.  Like oh my God.

No need to link to this much-heard song, so here’s Spongebob singing it.

I have not even spoken of the poignancy of the closing “Do it again” refrain — partly because I’m not sure it’s actually supposed to be poignant.  It might just be that it reminds me of the Kinks song:


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