Sunday, June 22, 2003

Bar Mitzvah at Hogwarts

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix hit bookstores around the world this weekend. And with an estimated 5 million copies already sold and the media hype flying as fast as broomsticks, I got to thinking: somewhere in the course of the first three books, someone should have gotten bar or bat mitzvahed at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. But as you may have noticed, Jews are conspicuously absent from Hogwarts.

Now you're probably thinking - come on, none of the characters are identified in a religious context of any sorts in the Harry Potter books. That's true. But you do hear about Christmas, big time, in all four books so far. Yet, is there any mention of Hanukah or Kwanza or Ramadan?

It seems to me that it's high time for J.K. Rowling to stage a magical but tasteful bar or bat mitzvah at Hogwarts. The only question is: who's the best candidate to be the world's first Jewish 13-year-old? We have to rule out the main characters, they're already too old. And the goblins who run Gringots Bank...well that's just too obvious and inappropriate a stereotype.

The only reasonable choice, then: it's Dobby the House Elf.

Yes, Dobby. We don't really know how old he is, now do we? And, in any case, he could get religion late in life or have one of those adult coming-of-age bar mitzvah ceremonies.

And what about that name. Dobby? Come's Dov-y, a good Hebrew moniker meaning bear. See, he's already half way there!

I'm imagining the grand hall in Hogwarts turned into a makeshift synagogue with all the students, teachers and administrators in attendance. A magical bima floats in the air, high above the crowd, with an ancient and highly elaborate Torah scroll placed carefully at center stage.

Dobby picks up a wand and moves it along the page to read from his bar mitzva portion. As he does, the letters fly off the page, swirl around the room and burst into flames before diving back to the page as fast as a Jewish snitch.

At Dobby's side, another elf provides simultaneous translation into Elvish, just as in traditional Yemenite shuls there is a running translation into Aramaic. Never mind the fact that Elvish is more commonly identified with the "Lord of the Rings" and not Harry Potter. Dobby has to have some sort of mamaloschen, doesn't he?.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Dobby is lifted up on a chair (not hard for a school full of wizards) and Nearly Headless Nick and Moaning Myrtle lead the first dance with him, the infamous Hogwarts' Horrible Hora. The bar mitzvah meal is naturally every bit as extravagant as the traditional Hogwarts December dinner, minus the Christmas pudding of course.

But as Dobby rises to give his bar mitzvah speech, the room descends into dramatic darkness and a thick mist envelopes Dobby. When it clears, Dobby has been transformed...into none other than He Who Must Not Be Named - the evil Voldemort!

The students are too stunned to shriek at this shocking development, right in the heart of Jewish Hogwarts. Dumbledore and Snape raise their wands to the ready. Harry's scar is aching. Ron is re-running chess moves in his head. Dobby/Voldermort opens his mouth to speak.

"Today," he begins, "I am a man."

"I wish to thank my teachers, my parents, and most of all, the students at Hogwarts for this humbling experience. I have seen the evil in my ways and I stand before you as a true penitent. I am a real hozer b'tshuva."

Magically, a black hat and tallit appear, and then he bellows in a voice Too Loud To Be Repeated: "Now who ordered the shrimp at my bar mitzvah!!"

J.K. Rowling - are you listening?

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