Mitzvah Speech

"Before we start this," I tell Daniel, "sperm is not dirty. Plenty of people eat sperm. It's OK to have a wet dream and get it all over the sheets."

"What's a wet dream?" he asks.

"Did you tell the rabbi you don't know what's going on in your Torah portion?" I don't wait for an answer. I explain a wet dream and Daniel laughs. It's a nervous, I-can't-believe-that-really-happens laugh.

"And another thing," I say. "Menstruation isn't dirty. It's special blood that is full of life, and you can eat it. And you can lick a girl's vagina if she has her period. It's clean. It's fine." I think for a minute. I think about Daniel's cello lessons and dance lessons and green hair and blue fingernails. And I don't want to say anything offensive, so I say, "Or you can let someone ejaculate in your mouth. That's clean too."

"What about AIDS?" Daniel says.

"Oh yeah. Right. Never let someone ejaculate into your mouth. Always use a condom. Always always always."

"OK," I say. "Fine. Get out your pen so we can outline the speech. In the first part you should summarize your Torah portion."

He thinks for a minute and says, "It's about how to rectify unclean emissions."

"OK. Write that. Now define what an emission is."

Daniel defines an emission. Well, he defines it about an hour later. And two hours later I find myself saying things like, "The point of being a Jew is to be holy and if you have an emission then you're unholy and you have to go to the mikva."

Daniel says, "Do you think this is stupid?"

I look at him. He's holding his pencil tightly and he's looking down on his page.

"No," I say. "I think it's great that you worked so hard to catch up in Hebrew school. You set a goal and you accomplished it."

"Thanks," he says, so softly I can barely hear him. He puts his arm across his paper like he's hiding it from me, and his ears turn red.

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