Today's Hebrew date, 29 Iyar, is the 11th anniversary of My Bar Mitzvah (tomorrow is the Civil date, May 18), and this Shabbos will be the first time since my Bar Mitzvah that I will layn my Bar Mitzvah Torah reading. I'm not going to study because I still have it memorized...
I have to admit that this Torah portion is not the most fun for which to have to write a Bar Mitzvah speech. The layning is not too difficult: the trope and almost all of the words, phrases, and clauses repeat themselves, a frequent trend in the Book of Numbers, the only major changes from verse to verse being names and numbers. But this portion is boring to speak about and when Bnei Mitzvah at my shul are given the option of speaking about either the Torah Portion or any of a selection of mishnayot from Pirkei Avot (If I were Bar Mitzvahed today I would pick a smartass one like "don't talk excessively to women lest you inherit hell"), they opt for "the sponge, the sieve, the funnel" and other kitchen utensils meant to teach us an ethical lesson (I'm so sick of that particular mishnah... everyone chooses it...)
At my Bar Mitzvah, I did speak about my Torah Portion, that there had to be a specialized way of counting to separate us from cattle (lehavdil; in fact, if I were to reprise the path I took in this particular speech, I would mention the methods we use to "count" a minyan, ten word phrases such as "Hoshiya et Amecha", HaMotzi, or my personal favorite from my High School days at Milken, the ten plagues).
I also spoke about my special Haftarah, Machar Chodesh (it fell on 29 Iyar 5756, the day before the new month), talking about the greatest and purest friendship of all time, that of Crown Prince Jonathan and a shepherd/harpist/giant-slayer named David (though my reading of a couple of endearing gestures (maybe that's how they rolled in Hebron 3000 years ago...) as well as the newly appointing (but not widely recognized) King David's lament of Jonathan and his father King Saul's deaths at the beginning of II Samuel might indicate that they were more than just friends ("Your love is better than the love of women"‽ C'mon!)
However, this year we read the "normal" haftarah ("normal" meaning less often than we read the special haftarah as almost every year since my Bar Mitzvah Bamidbar has fallen on 29 Iyar, Machar Chodesh), the beginning of Hosea. Basic plot: God tells you to marry a prostitute and have children with her, giving them horrible names like "Not-My-Nation" (well, at least He didn't command him to name him Swift-Booty-Speedy-Prey)
, the prostitute leaves you, returning to her life of indentured whoritude (is that even a word? Well it is now!) , you pay through the nose of to get her back and she is finally grateful to you, all to serve as an allegory for the everlasting love God has for the harlot Israel. I challenge you to write a Bar Mitzvah-appropriate Dvar Torah on this Haftarah. Ready, go!
Chodesh Tov, Shabbat Shalom.