19 Cracks by Matt Baram

At my service of Bar Mitzvah, I suffered the indignity of having my voice crack 19 times during my Haftorah alone. Yes, my friends counted. And yes, I led the whole three and a half hour service, where I valiantly squeaked my way through prayer after prayer in front of 300 friends and family members.

Now, at the age of 29, the first thing people often notice about me is my voice. It's deep, booming, and doesn't care what wall or obstacle is in its way. It's authoritative and yet kind, energetic and full, engaging with more than a twinge of goofiness. And it's loud. In other words, my voice is me. But as I often tell people, I earned it.

And it wasn't just at my service of Bar Mitzvah. My voice cracked from the summer going into 7th grade until the end of senior year of High School. I had nicknames ranging from crackles, to high pitched, to Big Poppa Squeaks. During my adolescent years, an already difficult time of physical, emotional and mental development, I literally struggled for almost 7 years to find my voice.

Seven years is a long time for a voice to crack, but those years really helped turn me into the man I am today. Despite the constant threat of another squeak, I didn't let my voice stop me from starring in community theater productions of The Pajama Game, Anything Goes and Damn Yankees. I didn't let my crackly moments keep me from delivering d'var torahs and speeches as the Membership Vice President of USY. I've always been proud of the fact that despite seven years of incessant voice cracks, I never shied away from leadership roles, public speaking opportunities, singing, or any of the other stuff I loved to do.

Many B'nei Mitzvah speeches talk about the challenge of becoming an adult and finding an authentic voice - discovering who you are and what your place is in the world. But at my Bar Mitzvah, I, quite literally, had to find my voice and be brave enough to use it, no matter how many times it cracked along the way - a lesson that has stayed with me even as my voice has settled into the deep, squeakless, baritone that I am known for today.  

Matt Baram: Matt is the Millennial Director at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles where he oversees all of the Teen and Young Professional Programming.