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The Bar Mitzvah Bind


Hopefully, by the time you’ll be reading this, I will have landed in Israel. “Israel?” you may ask. Yup. To a degree, this was a last-minute decision. Let me explain. 

For months now, my daughter, Malki, and son in-law, Yonatan, have been trying to figure out how to celebrate the bar mitzvah of their second son, Yisroel Noach. You may be asking yourself, “How to celebrate a bar mitzvah? What’s the big deal? Everyone knows how to do that.” Well, when your son is born during Pesach, things can get complicated. First of all, many people go away for Pesach. Secondly, many people won’t eat out during Pesach. These two factors make it very challenging to celebrate a bar mitzvah during Pesach. Especially if a major part of the celebration is having all of the bar mitzvah boy’s friends/class participate. Plus, I have to work on Pesach. It’s actually in my contract (I think) that I can’t take vacation during holidays. 

I’m sure you’re wondering, “why not just celebrate after Pesach?” Good question. Since Pesach ends on Wednesday night (in Israel), the Shabbat that follows Pesach would be a perfect solution. Unfortunately, there are five bar mitzvah boys in their shul that Shabbat! Yes, you correctly read - five bar mitzvahs on one Shabbat (if only we could have such a challenge of dealing with five bar mitzvahs on one Shabbat). “Ok,” you say, “so have the bar mitzvah the following week.” The problem with that is the mourning period for the death of Rabbi Akiva’s twenty-four thousand students will have begun. The soonest time to have a bar mitzvah would be four weeks later after Lag BaOmer. 

Therefore, Malki and Yonatan came up with the following solution. Though it’s not perfect, they felt it was the best choice under the circumstances. It is our custom to begin laying tefillin a month before becoming a bar mitzvah. Normally, we don’t make a big deal on that day. We do a little something but that’s it. However, this time we are going to go all out. On this coming Sunday, a rented bus will bring his whole class to the Kotel, where they will daven and Yisroel Noach will lay tefillin for the very first time. After that, there will be a party in the Old City of Jerusalem just like a typical bar mitzvah celebration. 

In order to make the whole experience even more special for Yisroel Noach, the family will be spending the entire shabbat in the Old City in a beautiful spacious home. To top it off, I decided to fly to Israel to surprise my grandson. 

In my opinion, the impact of “being there” for the people you love is enormous. It’s more valuable than any gift I could give (yes, I’ll be giving a gift too). This is especially true for a young person. To know that adults value you and are willing to make an effort to be with you on your special day leaves a life long imprint. All of us need to feel consequential, and instilling that feeling in a young adult lays the foundation for a successful future.