Let Him Finish His Talk!
Question: I recently attended a Bar Mitzvah celebration for the son of a friend. When the boy was invited to deliver his traditional drasha speech, his classmates repeatedly interrupted him with song after a couple of sentences. This seemed rather strange to me. What is the right thing to do?
Answer: The custom of interrupting a Bar Mitzvah boy and a chatan when they begin to speak is based on the consideration that they may not succeed in effectively completing their talks. Such consideration was shown in regard to the declaration which a Jew was required to make when bringing bikkurim first fruits to the Beit Hamikdash. In order to avoid embarrassing someone incapable of making this declaration, our Sages instituted a practice of the kohen making this declaration for everyone, even those who could make it themselves. The same reasoning moved them to abandon the old practice of everyone called up to the Torah in the synagogue reading his portion by himself and to have a baal koreh read for everyone.
An even more touching example of such consideration is the custom of the berachot at the chupa being said by others rather than the chatan, to whom they really belong, in order to avoid embarrassing a groom incapable of saying them.
Although there is a "method in the madness" of interrupting the youngster, it should nevertheless be borne in mind that he has spent countless hours in preparing this talk and may be very anxious to deliver it. The safest compromise is to judge the reaction of the youngster after the initial ceremonial interruption. If he is indeed looking for a way out, he will sit down in relief. But if he insists on continuing, the greatest consideration which can be shown for him, and respect for his words of Torah, is to let him finish his presentation and to pay attention!