When my children were little, I frequently reminded them how lucky they were to be Jewish. “Look at all the holidays and life cycle events we get to celebrate,” was my standard reply when they asked why some kids had big celebrations at Christmas and they didn’t. Even when I mentioned Chanukah, it didn’t fully satisfy them, because 8 days of presents consisting of gum, candy, socks, pencil boxes and, if they were lucky, the game they had been wanting just didn’t compare.
I don’t think my sons ever appreciated how lucky they were more than on the day that each was Bar Mitzvah. During the months prior, as they were forced to study their Torah and Haftorah portions daily, they didn’t feel quite that lucky. They had little appreciation for this special time in their lives until the weekend of the event when they became, not men, but stars. With all their family and friends present to witness their accomplishments, they were in their glory. Never before had they been the center of so much attention. They didn’t remember their brisses.
As for me, the mom, I became a person known to have a big, black notebook permanently attached to my arm. I was overwhelmed with plans as well as advice from everyone who shared their conflicting suggestions. In the end, we did what we wanted, what we could afford and what seemed the best way to accomplish the task without having a nervous breakdown.
Not so today. For those who don’t want to or can’t make all the plans, there are Bar/Bat Mitzvah planners who guide parents each step of the way. They’ll help pick out your invitations, the place of your evening affair, the flowers and decoration - everything but the Torah portion. That they leave to the rabbi and tutor who spends long, thankless hours with the often reluctant B’nai Mitzvah.
Today there are even web sites that tell you everything you need to know from how many nuts to buy, what souvenirs to give the guests, what color balloons are in and suggestions for a theme for the party. How about a Harry Potter or a Star Seach event? A Garden of Eden evening might be fun. That one includes stuffed animals, trees, flowers, snakes (fake of course) but unlike the original story, clothes.
These parties can and usually do cost a small fortune. Some hotels, I’ve heard, ask for a guaranteed minimum of $10,000 for a dinner dance. When I heard that, it brought to mind what my sons’ big weekends were like. At least two of them had luncheons at the Temple, made entirely by a group of friends and served by hired help. The evening affairs included family and a few friends for simple dinners at home. The boys told me later that those were the best times of their young lives.
I know these weekend celebrations are all wonderful no matter what the entertainment or the food. The pride everyone feels in the B’nai Mitzvah chanting their portions just as generations past have done and hopefully, as their children will do is what really counts after all. Next to that is the fabulous feeling of having so many dear ones together for this most special of Jewish events when 13 year olds become stars.
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