After my son’s bar mitzvah a few weeks ago, I have been trying to put into words what was so special about the experience. I kept trying to write a blog, but everything seemed too superficial, not really capturing the emotions I felt that special day (and the weeks and months leading up to it). As always, I discovered my answer by reading. The two books I am reading right now, Life Lessons by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler along with the book Life Reimagined by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, emphasize the fundamental importance of love in thriving. At age 45 I feel I am finally really grasping the power of love. And when I think about it, the word that captures the wonderful feelings surrounding my son’s bar mitzvah is, simply, love.
For me, the energy in the room –filled with over 200 people—was palpable. I felt we were all there for the same reasons. To share a simcha and experience joy together. We were all rooting for each other. I was eager for my guests to have fun and I felt my guests were equally invested in my having a wonderful evening. We were all on the same team. After a very emotionally draining election, it was so wonderful to be in a place where we all wanted peace—at least for one evening.
Love through connections—old and new
Of course I must attribute this love in the room to the wonderful people who were there. Looking around the room I had to hand it to my husband and myself. We pick good friends and have wonderful family. We enjoyed connecting with our friends – old and new, and our friends enjoyed connecting with each other as well. There were opportunities for acquaintances to connect on a deeper level and for people to meet the right person at the right time. There were moments of exchanged gratitude when a new friend of mine expressed her appreciation at being included even though our friendship is so new. Then there was another friend of ours who introduced his teenage daughter to my dad, a doctor, who had helped her with a medical challenge over 10 years ago. With each connection, it felt like electricity was released into the room.
Bar Mitzvah Boy Love
My son has developed some very strong connections over his 13 years. He adores his cousins and has a special affinity for the “law school group”—my husband’s law school friends and their kids that we have miraculously stayed close with over the years. In an effort to acknowledge these two special groups, we made space in our already packed schedule to spend some extra special time with them that weekend.
The cousins came over Friday night for dinner and then again on Saturday morning. Hudson was on cloud nine as he played with them –familiarity was so meaningful during this stressful and busy weekend. Amazingly, everyone from the “law school group” made an effort to arrive a little earlier (coming from between 3-8 hours away) so they could all meet for lunch.
These moments with the cousins and the law school group allowed the feeling of love to generate before the bar mitzvah even started! Honoring Hudson’s unique nature—a passion for friends and family—was a wonderful way to demonstrate to Hudson that we love him for who he is and encourage him to continue to develop strong supportive relationships throughout his life.
Love through sharing
While building up to the big day my party planner and friend Dayna and I would have so much fun watching the progress. Dayna would share her creations with me and I was mesmerized watching her magically turn ideas into reality. I would also send the pictures of Dayna’s handiwork to my daughter, sister, mom and best friend. It was so nice to have others share their excitement and watch the vision unfold. Those moments of excitement allowed me to experience the big day a hundred times before it actually arrived. Connecting around a fun event is the best way to expand the joy. Instead of just one day of fun, I was able to share the fun for several months.
Love through Faith
At our synagogue, the approach to preparing bar and bat mitzvah kids is to teach a child at his or her own pace and not stop until a few weeks before the event. With this approach, they continuously gave Hudson more and more and more prayers. He had no idea that these prayers were not required. When he finished learning one prayer, they simply handed him another one. Shockingly, Hudson ended up learning almost the entire Havdallah service. This approach demonstrates a faith in our children. They will learn what they are capable of. It is incredible to watch these kids lead the service with such confidence and pride. With much love, Hudson’s tutor, Rabbi and Cantor pushed Hudson to stretch and grow beyond his wildest imagination. He went above and beyond because his teachers had faith in his ability and then, in the end, he had faith in himself. I was in awe the first time I saw him practice the service in its entirety two weeks before his big day. I had no idea he was capable of so much; and I felt such love for his teachers for having faith in him.
L’ Dor v’ Dor: Love through the generations
I cherish having all ages in one room, it feels so sacred to me. Watching the oldest generation kvell as they witness the traditions passed down from generation to generation is so moving. It is so sweet to observe the littlest members of the party look up to the older kids and have the time of their life eating junk and dancing the night away. A week after the big day, my father-in-law broke his hip and has been suffering ever since. I am so grateful he had that day to kvell over his grandson, see family and friends and to watch the passing down of Jewish traditions in action.
It’s easy to get lost in the details of a Bar Mitzvah celebration and lose sight of the deeper meaning. A Bar Mitzvah celebration is an opportunity to bring the community together for a happy and uplifting event. I feel such gratitude that we were able to share so much love leading up to and during the event and I hope to continue to find ways to appreciate all of the opportunities for love and connection in my life going forward.