Reality, on a green 3×5 card


As I pulled into the parking lot at the temple, I was amused by the fact that my van, which is being held together by duct tape, string, paper clips and prayer, was parked next to a new Porsche.  The juxtaposition of the two vehicles seemed to represent how I felt about going into my son’s Bar Mitzvah meeting.  I was a little nervous and didn’t feel like I fit in.

I walked in, saw familiar faces, said some hellos, got my folder, sat down and whipped out my knitting.  I knit when I am nervous.  The meeting started right on time (odd, I know).  The Rabbi asked us to introduce ourselves and tell a story about our experience with Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.  I have no story.  The only story I have is the one I am telling you all right now.  Knit, knit, knit.  I messed up the introduction.  Knit, knit, knit. 

The Rabbi begins to go over everything.  He talks about how each ceremony is structured to fit the needs of each child and their family.  I am still knitting, but it is slowing.  I am starting to feel calmer, or maybe the magnitude of the whole event is just so overwhelming that I am in shock, hard to tell.  More talking. Eventually, there is a need for some paper shuffling and I put my knitting away.  I am starting to think this is doable.  Planning is something I am good at.

Just as the calm is beginning to settle in, the dates are handed out.  I am not sure what I expected, but what was printed on that green index card was a shocker for me.  I think I expected that the Bar Mitzvah date would be within a few weeks of my son’s birthday, not almost three months later.  I am sure that the fact that an actual date makes all of this real also contributed.   I was shell-shocked by the information on the card.

I could have requested a date.  I didn’t do that.  I just figured they would give us the right date.  It is two years from now, so really, I don’t have anything scheduled.  When I got the date, all the days that would have been bad flooded my mind.  The anniversary of my father’s death is in the same month as Mac’s bar mitzvah, but it never occurred to me to request it to not be on that date, it was so far away from Mac’s birthday.

While driving home I called a friend and freaked out a bit.  She listened to me go on, and then calmly reminded me that this is G-d’s party and that what will be will be.  The people that are important will be there.  That this is about more than just dates and the potential for blizzards to cause havoc with travel plans.  That in the end, it will be ok, Mac will do great, and everyone who needs to be there will be there.  The people that love him will come.

I asked her to remind me of this over the next two years when I am having some sort of cosmic meltdown.  I also am laying in a goodly supply of yarn, just in case.

5 thoughts on “Reality, on a green 3×5 card”

  • I hope it will be a wonderful occasion — and if it makes you feel better, bar/bat mitzvah dates aren’t always close in time to the birthday: though I was born in December, my bat mitzvah took place two month later (coinciding with both Valentine’s Day & Tu B’Shevat); each of my brothers was bar mitzvahed a month or more after his birthday (and even though we got snowstorms on both, which wouldn’t have happened in July, they were wonderful occasions).

  • It could be worse: I know someone who lost a parent on the very day of a joyful holiday. It must be hard to celebrate as fully every year when there is always an aspect of mourning connected with the same day.

    The scheduling could become a blessing in that it may enable a positive family memory to help dull the pain of loss. As we say in the liturgy: “L’dor v’dor”. Even though your father will not be there to celebrate with you, your son is still part of his legacy and a way that a part of who he was lives on. You might mention your father in the traditional speech that most parents give at a bar mitzvah. Perhaps there is something about your son that reminds you of your father or maybe there are words of wisdom from your father that you can pass down to your son at that important event of his life.

    Bnei mitzvah dates are always chosen by parents in my small lay-led minyan (currently only about 100 adult members). I think four is the largest number of bnei mitzvah the minyan ever had in one year. As the congregation has aged and we haven’t added as many younger members, we’re down to 0-2 bnei mitzvah per year. For my daughter, my husband decided that we should choose a date mid-way between age 12, the traditional age for girls used by most minyan members, and 13 the modern “egalitarian” date, which allowed it to be scheduled on Parashat Vayetzi, his own bar mitzvah parashah. Unfortunately, it meant that it was right after the biggest snow storm of the year and some guests could not attend due to cancelled plane flights. For my son, we scheduled his bar mitzvah about two months after his Hebrew birthday in order to take advantage of the Memorial Day long weekend to have a weekday bar mitzvah that Shomer Shabbat friends who live in different places could easily attend. All the guests who couldn’t get to my daughter’s bat mitzvah were able to attend my son’s bar mitzvah 3.5  years later. I didn’t speak at my daughter’s bat mitzvah, but spoke very briefly about both my children at my son’s simcha. I wrote an article for IFF about that.

  • I too freak out when i think of my son’s bar mitzvah.  only he’s 11 weeks old!  I’m sure the ceremony will be beautiful. 

  • Great post – made me laugh a little:).  I only have a 7 year old so no suggestions yet.  Sounds like you have a good perspective on the whole thing – good luck!

  • Your friend is right — things will be fine.  And whatever happens, there will be a range of memories, some heart-warming, some funny.  

    And the few things that might not go fine will become what you laugh about later.  For instance, the synagogue where one of our daughters was bat-mitzvahed had the sanctuary in one building and the social hall in another.  The balloons that were supposed to be delivered to the social hall for the luncheon were LEFT, floating independently, in the coatroom of the sanctuary.  Fortunately, someone quietly let me know and a friend walked them across the parking lot, with barely a hiccup in my attention to the beautiful service.

    But those aren’t my main memories.  Those include our daughter wrapped in her new tallit carrying the Torah.  And our other daughter blowing us away with her impromptu dialogue with the Rabbi — and her extraordinary mitzvah project that has now (it just occurred to me!) transitioned into a career.

    One suggestion: if the Rabbi will allow it, take pictures of your child before the event during a practice session.  I cherish those.

    Worry comes with the territory, of course.  I’m so glad that knitting helps!  

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