Not you, but your question
has flown with me to Israel.
What makes it a Bar Mitzvah?
There’s no rabbi, no synagogue, no Torah.
I see your point, Mother-in-law.
And now I also see poppies.
Yes, the poppies are out.
Mazal Tov! Mazal Tov! they call to my nephew
when we pass them on the trail in northern Galilee.
They are swaying, nodding,
deep in prayer and celebration.
Time to break out and bloom;
vibrant, red, they applaud thirteen.
The cows have come, too. Are they not like rabbis?—
showing us the way. They are everywhere:
on the hills, in the caves, the streams.
They leave warnings on the trail: where not to step.
This way, they say, higher and higher up the cliffs of Arbel,
and my nephew follows. The Kinneret shines below,
and in the water, his reflection: boy becoming man.
Later, in Ein Karem, we bless him in a garden
where grapes were once pressed into wine.
The steaks on the barbecue know this is a Bar Mitzvah.
They conspire with the stones in the courtyard,
the arches, the peeling walls, beautiful as frescoes;
with the lemons and the grapevine, the pink flowers of the Judas tree.
All of them whispering about the mitzvahs of this boy
whom we have gathered to honor
around a table bursting with fresh and tender and
sweet on a sunny day in Jerusalem.