You never really know what it’s like to co-ordinate a bar mitzvah until you come to Adon Olam, the final prayer of the service. Looking back at that point, I realized that putting together a bar mitzvah is a lengthy journey that begins with establishing the date, and thus the Torah portion, and then evolves into details, more details and lots of spirit.
In preparation, my dear sister, Chavi, and I created a to-do list. It ran for three pages and included: get benchers and kippot, secure liquor license and put together the team for the day of the event. However, the bar mitzvah year really began with my son’s classes with Sadie Domb, an excellent teacher who displayed style and heart. She set about teaching him the Hebrew, the trope (notes), maftir, haftarah and a devar Torah.
Six months ago, I discovered that the Winchevsky Centre would be a good venue for my son’s rite of passage. It’s simple, affordable and has superb natural lighting. I then began scouting out caterers. Ultimately, I chose Pantry to create a wonderful vegan Mexican menu. I then emailed out an e-vite. That’s when things got exciting. People began RSVPing, often with lovely notes of support and love. I enjoyed seeing who was going to make it to our celebration.
The days and months rolled on. My boy was nailing his portion. Things started taking shape. Then David Nefesh, an old friend from Michigan with a voice like an angel, agreed to be our hazzan (cantor). I would be the spiritual leader. We were almost there.
I began imagining the actual Shabbat and how it might unfold. Then, my anxiety set in. How would the small kitchen fit the two fridges, a hotplate and dishes? Would I be prepared to facilitate the service? Could I bring meaning to our two hours together? Would I have a panic attack on the bimah?
But it was all good. The day, May 11, finally arrived. It was 9:30 a.m. when I realized that I forgot to buy the water. Damn. Luckily, my friend Matteo saved the day.
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Family and friends started to roll in. I got nervous. The seats were sparsely filled. “Nobody’s coming,” I thought. Vicky, an amazing friend with generosity to spare and my point person for the food and venue, busily and magnificently got things in order. Mindfully, I relaxed myself.
At around 9:40 a.m., David sang Ma Tovu. The congregation joined in. My son, Noah, was looking dandy in his new suit, a gift from Jon, my childhood buddy. A very creative collage made by Roz, a very special soul, reflected the many stages of Noah’s life. It was gorgeous. We were there, at my boy’s bar mitzvah, experiencing what thousands of Jews had over the years – sheer joy and nachas.
Nate Leipciger came up and made a bracha for the children of the Holocaust who never celebrated their bar or bat mitzvahs. He put his hands on my son’s head and blessed him. Noah’s bubbe and zayde placed a vegan tallit made in Israel on his shoulders and blessed him again. Ira Teich made a warm and heartfelt blessing for Israel. Tears welled up in my eyes. They remained there throughout the service and into the lunch. I had never been so publicly overwhelmed with feelings. I almost sobbed.
It was Shabbat morning, parashat Kedoshim, May 11, 2019. Everything worked. We will never forget that moment. The endless details were worth it.
Let all of us be full of love for one another and the world that we share. Let us celebrate the beauty of our sons and daughters. Thank you, God. Am Yisra’el Chai. The nation of Israel lives. Mazel tov!
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