I had thought that I would do my son's Bar Mitzvah basically the way I did my daughter's.
How different could it be?
Well, besides the whole Tefillin thing (which is a subject for a different post), I am not the same as I was three years ago.
For my daughter's Bat Mitzvah, I cooked all the food for the Bat Mitzvah Shabbat in advance. My daughter read torah in our very special women's tefillah group. For the kiddush, friends helped bake and prepare fruit and vegetable platters and I also bought a bunch of stuff (like chumus, crackers and junk food for kids).
Everything was very simple, and very good.
Friday night dinner we ate dinner with immediate family only (and our friends, who were hosting us for that Shabbat). For tefillot and kiddush, we invited EVEYONE we knew in the Baka/Katamon/Talpiot/Rechavia area -- we figured מי שבא, ברוך הבא ("Whoever comes is welcome!"). For Shabbat lunch, we rearranged the kiddush tables and set up for lunch in the same space -- for this meal we included guests who had come to Jerusalem for our simcha and friends who had walked from far away.
It was a lot of work, but manageable.
Cleaning up the kiddush room on Saturday night was the hardest part and one of my very good friends came to help us with that.
This time around, my family encouraged (read: pressured) me to order Shabbat food. I resisted -- most ready-made food is high in oil and salt. I wanted to prepare the food myself, but I had a back-up plan: two months before the Bar Mitzvah, a friend offered to organize meals for us, and she kept repeating the offer every few days .
I thought I could manage to cook the food myself... until I found out about the brain mets and radiation. When I discovered how tired the radiation made me, all illusions about preparing food myself dissipated....
The next time my friend offered to arrange meals for us, I did not put her off. Instead, I took a deep breath and said "Thank you, that would be very helpful!"
I do not know why it is so difficult to just accept help. Even after all this time, it is!
This friend, one of the many angels God has sent me, took responsiblity for organizing EVERY aspect of the meals. The food was both delicious and healthful!! What a bracha (blessing)!!!
As Shabbat approached, I realized I would need more help. I spoke with several friends who were happy to help, but I could not find the time or energy to direct them.
Then, God sent me another angel. A week before Shabbat, another friend offered to take responsibility for the entire kiddush, including making calls and seeing what needed to be done (we have a large community, and I had no idea where to start). Before starting, she just wanted to make sure that I did not feel the need to do it myself.
By that point, I realized that I could not do it myself and gladly gave the task over to her. What a weight lifted off my shoulders! I passed her my list of people who had offered to help (bake, prepare platters, etc.). Then, every time another friend offered to help, I asked her to bake and directed her to my coordinator.
I do not think my coordinator realized how many friends, thank God, were baking/preparing food, because the kiddush was enormous!!
I did not even get a chance to see what there was! I spent the kiddush talking with friends and just basking in the joy of having heard my son read Torah and Haftorah so beautifully. (for more about our son's Aliyah LaTorah (Torah reading) see here)
Only at the very end did I see the beautiful cake my downstairs neighbor baked, with a set of tefillin on it!
At one point, a neighbor handed me a piece of kugel Yerushalmi, but I only managed to eat a few bites. I barely tasted anything, but that was ok.
Someone did make a Napolian pastry (I LOVE custard) and I did get a piece of that! Yumm!!
I took the opportunity to address the community, to thank everyone, both from within the community and from without, especially those who hiked in from Talpiot, Baka, Katamon, and even Rehavia!
The Bar Mitzvah Shabbat was particularly HOT, even early in the morning! I felt so blessed to have friends who trekked so far just to hear our son read and to be a part of our simcha!! I really felt embraced by friends and community.
This time, it was too much for me to try and organize a meal with all our guests, so friends ate with other friends in the community.
Our immediate family ate both meals at our home, where I was most comfortable. We were 14 people: Moshe's parents, my parents, my sister, my brother, his wife and their two kids (ages 5 and 2) and, of course, our family of five. (we have five people in our family, 1-2-3-4-5!)
My sister in law, who almost NEVER goes away for Shabbat, also came in for Shabbat with her family (they have seven kids). They took full advantage of being in the neighborhood. They ate the first Shabbat meals with close friends, from their (destroyed) community in Gush Katif, and the second with cousins, who live a few houses away from us. They did join us for seudah shlishit (the 3rd Shabbat meal), but that is a less formal meal, and we were able to all squeeze in (the kids all leave the table within a few minutes anyway).
Thanks to all my angels, I was able to conserve my energy and focus on the important things:
* Getting to shul on time (I even made it to Kabbalat Shabbat)
* Hearing my son read Torah and Haftorah
* Spending time with family
I had a wonderful Shabbat!!
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,
Rabbi Lau @ Barkai Event (video)
1 hour ago