Jewish Stuff Love

To My Son, One Month After

Dress rehearsal. No cameras allowed on the real day.

By the time you read this, it will have already slipped into past tense.

I will have already sat in synagogue and listened to him chant from the Torah.

It’s a little surreal, eighteen months of talking about it and suddenly, it will be over.

At the time, I wasn’t sure what to say.

Because I didn’t know how I would feel.

Everyone always talks about the party, the theme, the food, the DJ.

But for me, the most amazing stuff happened in the synagogue, hours before.

At one point, our family stood on the bimah together, facing the Torah scrolls, the congregation at our backs. We had just finished singing and the rabbi whispered, “Now turn and face front.”

This was taken right after the “glow moment.”

As we all turned, the room came into focus. We woke that morning to a stunning blue-skies day, as we stood in shul, the sun streamed through the stained glass windows.

From my vantage point, everyone’s head seemed to be glowing, especially the men’s heads underneath the neon green yarmulkes Tech had selected for the day. I saw every row filled with people — our people — family and friends and members of the community.

It felt like G-d was touching our little corner of the earth.

I thought back to eighteen months earlier, when we learned that Tech’s bar mitzvah was going on to be on June 23, 2012, how my husband took two giant steps backward.

“No way,” Hubby put his hand on his forehead. “I made my bar mitzvah on June 23rd. In 1979.”

My son was going to become a bar mitzvah and stand on the same bimah where my husband made his bar mitzvah thirty-three years earlier.

It was definitely beshert, meant to be.

And it felt a little bit magical.

Tech’s Hebrew name is Abbe Reuven, after two of his great-grandfathers. And, on his bar mitzvah day he received his tallit (traditional prayer shawl) from one grandfather and his other grandfather (my father) presented him with a tallit bag which had belonged to his father: these are ancient rituals, traditions passed down from one generation to to the next.

Our son is the walking embodiment of our faith. He has always been proud to be Jewish. He has never complained about going to Hebrew School, the way most some kids do. Each summer he heads to Jewish camp, and he says his favorite place there is at the waterfront, by the fire circle, during Friday night services.

Tech takes Jewish Law seriously, and — as he said during his d’Var (personal reflection) during his bar mitzvah — he truly wishes everyone followed the 10 Commandments. He feels these rules were designed to keep people out of trouble with themselves, family, friends, and neighbors, and he believes if we look at the lessons of the Torah, we can figure out how to stay out of trouble and live in peace with one another.

As he stood before a congregation of over 200 people, I was amazed by his composure.

I have always said Tech has an “old soul.” It is like some 93-year old Jewish guy died and on his way out, his soul went straight into our newborn. Tech has always understood the important things in life. He is comfortable in his own skin and with who he is, regardless of whatever others think.

[I expect to get to that place. You know, like any day now.]

I don’t pretend to know where Tech is going.

He is still becoming.

All I know is that if you can get up and sing (and speak) in front of hundreds of people at the age of 13, you can do anything.

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50 thoughts on “To My Son, One Month After

    1. Thank you. It was such a special day. I only have 3 more posts in the series and then I’m done. I think. I mean, he’s coming home from camp with a Mohawk, so I’m guessing there will be other things to write about. 😉

  1. Once again you put tears in my eyes. A wonderful reflection on an important day. Keep writing because I keep loving to read about it. We are lucky to get to share such days with friends and family and now you get to share them with even more people through your well tought-out words. I’m so proud of you and Tech.

    1. It was probably the most spiritual moment I have ever had INSIDE a building, not outside in nature. Truly magic. I think I have 3 more posts on this topic, one that will actually have photos from the photographer of actually decor and stuff, which will be fun! But there are still a few more surprises to share. Thanks Boots!

    1. Hi Carol. I’m telling you. I’m all about the watery eyes lately! I can’t believe what a nerve this touched for all of us. Meanwhile, my son is off at summer camp, and I can’t wait to squish him when he gets home.

  2. Such an amazing event, and such an amazing young man! I love the yarmulkes. I had no idea a person could pick a crazy color like that. 🙂

    My son will complete his Confirmation next year, which blows my mind. They just grow too darn fast.

    1. They weren’t THAT crazy! They were just this sort of lime green! I’m telling you! They were glowing! And this wasn’t even from the professional photographer! But yes, they even have them in tie-dye! 😉

      You are going to be weeping at that confirmation. I’ll be looking forward to THAT series!

    1. Hi SPrinkles! You know what? It was! I would be lying if I said I enjoyed planning this thing. I was hideous. I was not built to plan events. But. Wow, did it come together. And, honestly, it wasn’t about the party (which was also awesome, and I’ll have something on that). For me THIS was what it was what it was about. So proud. #StillKvelling!

  3. This sent a surge of electricity through me. “…he truly wishes everyone followed the 10 Commandments.”

    Because the 10 Commandments are universal. Chrisitians and Jews follow them as law, and even Muslims have a version of Moses in possession of tablets with the ‘commands of the Lord.’

    At our foundation, we have much more in common than we often realize. With young people like yours (and mine!) the world is in good hands. 3

    1. Exactly. And he TOTALLY gets that universality of those commandments. He doesn’t understand why people hurt each other. It just offends every fiber of his being. We DO have so much in common. Why do we choose to focus so much on the few people who make our world a miserable place to live?

    1. I have to admit, Dorothy. It makes me nervous. Like he is going to be taken away from me. Sometimes I feel like I’m waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop.” Because he is pretty mellow and kind. I just get scared that he isn’t tough enough for this world. *weep*

      That said, he’s holding his own at summer camp. Year 5, week 4. Can’t wait until he comes home on Sunday!

  4. I wanted to let you know that I had a wonderful time the whole weekend. To by honest, I was a little surprised how much fun I had. I was looking forward to seeing all my cousins. But sitting in temple for 2 hours, then going to a party with a bunch of 13-year-olds didn’t really excite me. Until it did. Tech was really AMAZING on the Bima. To say I was impressed would be an understatement. I was also impressed with your Hubby. I was expecting you to speak after the ceremony, but everything he said was beautiful. Eloquent. Apparently all the men in your family have hidden talents!

    I also loved the party. The separate adult cocktail hour AND watching all the kids in the cool hats. And the video. LOVED the video.

    Is he really coming back from camp with a Mohawk? Is it because he’s in Mohawk? What are the chances he’d let you post of picture? Or should we wait until he gets something piereced? ;o)

    1. Larisa! Thank you so much. To be honest, I did not expect to be so impressed! Is that bad to say? I knew he was going to be able to chant, but until they get up there and the whole service comes together, well… you just have no idea. Because what you have seen as a parent is so very piecemeal.

      I loved seeing all the kids running around dancing at the party, yes, but for me…what happened on the bimah was the magic that set the tone for the rest of the weekend. I had big dorky look on my face the whole time.

      And yes, he REALLY said he was getting a Mohawk. Called to get permission, and I granted it and everything. (Something to do with this new “Fight Song” thing they do. So unless he changed his mind, I imagine he’ll emerge from the bus scalped on Sunday! I will definitely have my camera! 😉

      1. Tell him to paint it blue. Was he on the blue team in Color Wars? Either way, blue would be cool! There are definately many sides to Tech. That boy is a polygon! 🙂

    1. I promise I will stop yapping about this soon. I don’t only write about Judaica. But it took me a while to process the event and write about it, and I wanted to do it before summer is over and it is time to get back to school! Don’t leave me! 😉

  5. Sorry I am not getting to chime in on this until now – had appointments this AM. But both Hibs and I LOVED the bar mitzvah. Although all your planning, the great food, decorations and ambiance were not lost on us, the greatest joy was in watching [Tech}. He manages to bridge two worlds – the one with his friends and the silliness of youth with the maturity and wisdom of an adult. We can hardly wait to watch him grow up. Stay in touch!

    1. Hi Marlene!
      We loved having your entire family there. It meant the world to my parents! It’s been too long since we have all been together! Thank you chiming in — and for understanding how my teen possesses the soul of a much older man. Because he really does. 😉

  6. Isn’t that the truth, Renee (if you can do that at 13, you can do anything)! I am in constant awe of your son. I loved actually getting to see the neon green glow of the yarmulkes.

    I think no matter what your faith, there is something sacred in rituals and traditions (well, you know, ones with human sacrifice and blood and raising the undead are generally bad, but, other than that…). And I think the most spiritual people are those who approach it exactly like your son does – with a focus on ‘staying out of trouble and helping others.’

    You done good, momma (even though I know you’re too humble to take much credit here)!

    1. Oh, I would totally bogart the credit if I really felt like it was mine to take. My dude is definitely an old soul. If he starts pulling his pants up to his nipples, I’ll start to worry. 😉 Thanks for being a great blog auntie. You are the best, Jules.

  7. Lovely moving account. But just because he’s a wonderful mature lad now doesn’t mean to say he might not go all teenage on you at some point. The great thing is, if it happens, it clearly won’t last long with him.

  8. It was a divine weekend. Of course, I am a bit prejudice. [Tech] is my grandson. He gave me and Phil a thrill we shall never forget. Seeing family was wonderful. You guys definitely made this Bar Mitzvah marvelous.
    Congrats to you and your Hubby.

  9. I’ve been waiting to read about the big day, and it’s so wonderful to share in your joy. I feel weird saying so, not knowing him and all, but I’m so proud of your son! I’m so, so glad that everything went well, that you all had a great time, and that you were able to experience all of those wonderful emotions. It’s inspiring to hear how dedicated Tech is to his faith! He is still becoming, as you say, but he seems to be well on his way to becoming a great man.

    1. Michelle! Thank you so much for you kind words. Everything did go really well. I mean, somebody ate the fish designated for my father. And the photographer got strep throat so we hand a stand-in. And the kids ate all the candy from the candy bar in 17.2 seconds. (I could not have predicted they would be like a swarm of locusts!) But yes, it was about so much more than the party. It was truly a weekend to remember, and I hope that our whole family will for a long time. It was so special to have everyone there!

  10. I’ve never been, seen , or heard anything about a bar mitzvah, so this was a special treat to have you share it with us. Thanks. It seems strange that in the “American” culture, there really aren’t any rites of passage, so this is a beautiful, important message for a young man on his journey.

    1. Wow, Barb! I feel like I should interview you. I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who hasn’t ever “been, seen or heard” something about a bar or bat mitzvah! 😉

      It’s true what you ay about there being a lack of rites of passage for children in the West, and I often think that I am so grateful our Jewish ‘tweens have this tradition. It is definitely a challenging time: balancing school, sports and religious study. Part of the preparation includes learning to read from the Torah (which doesn’t have vowels the way kids have learned them in religious school), learning the trope (chanting melodies), chanting their Torah portion in Hebrew, writing a personal reflection about how themes from that week’s reading might be linked to their lives, and then getting up and delivering this speech in front of an entire congregation!

      For some people, this task isn’t difficult. But for others, it is terrifying! That said, once you have been through the experience, you really do feel like you can do anything.

  11. Beautiful. I love his ear-to-ear grin holding the Torah there. Talk about shepping some nachas. The connection to the previous generations through his name, and the gifts, and the bar mitzvah date (whoa!) is touching, and also grounding. It reminds me of how, no matter where we’re holding in our life, we are still connected to those who came before us, and we will be connecting ourselves to those who follow. Deep.

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