My Top Favorite memories from our son’s Bar Mitzvah weekend:
D’var Torah Delivery: His written speech was good: Thoughtful, humorous, plenty of baseball references. His delivery, even more, was a home run. This kid milked every sentence with a gesture, facial expression, pregnant pause to capture and keep the congregation’s attention. Although he and I spent some time reviewing delivery as did his fabulous Bar Mitzvah teacher Diane Townsend, it was my son himself who transformed it to the next level. I was very proud. More, it was a new experience seeing this side of him!
Family: Our whole immediate family – excepting the girls in Israel – were here for the simcha. Weeks before, I asked God for just one thing – that there be four grandparents to be at the simcha. Noah took note of the same gift when, the night before the service, he commented to his mom at how wonderful it was to have all four grandparents together.
Working Together: With each of three children, my role – dad, rabbi, rabbi-dad (as my son so cutely called me) – changed depending upon their needs and my growing lack of needs. #1 confidently allowed me to open the service then step off the bimah to be “just dad” (holding Mom’s hand, kvelling). #2, having watched me sit beside other BM kids and talk, joke, or reassure them thru the service, had me sit with him the whole service and then become dad at the Torah service. There was a pleasure that he wanted me by his side. #3, wanted more involvement. After an initial meeting with his second rabbi-dad Rabbi Ron Stern, my son asked me to write d’var Torah with him. This one had the confidence to allow dad to work with him. More, he let me sit with mom during a few more moments of the service. Roles changed for me with each one. I’m pleased that the role depended upon the child’s desires.
Holding Hands: When my son and I sat next to each other on the bimah, we were sometimes smiling, sometimes teasing, sometimes holding hands. He initiated the hand-holding, not me. And, in his d’var Torah, he told everyone that he loves it when his mom called him “baby doll”. You have to have some strong self-confidence to stand/sit before teenage friends to share the story that Mom calls you “baby doll” and to hold dad’s hand.
Tears: Overwhelmed just before the service began because of all those people, he turned to me and I talked/distracted/hoped him through the emotions that threatened to bring tears. When the service started, his courage kicked in. The rest – beautiful way he led, chanted and taught – is history, until the video comes back. He rose to the occasion. No more tears again until the rabbis blessing.
Rabbi’s Blessing: Like with other B’nai Mitzvah students, I blessed my own son before the ark. With so much to say privately, I just put my arms on my son’s shoulders, he leaned in, and we preceded to talk openly and honestly before the ark. So natural. So meaningful. Staring into each other’s eyes, we shared something poignant, magical. It was blessing during the time of blessing.
Party Set Up and Take Down: Though my wife did the yeoman’s work organizing, it took a village to set it up. Congregants laid out the 850 pieces of cookies and brownies my folks made. Friends helped set up and take down the decorations. Family helped set up chairs – all 275 of them. Our temple staff worked doubly hard to ensure that the synagogue “home” was its most beautiful. Colleagues played roles in the service, others sang. It was a communal effort.
Opening Gifts: Five days later my son still hasn’t opened all his gifts. Don’t get me wrong, he and we appreciate them all. But you have to be impressed with a kid who finds meaning in the service and being with family and does not rush to open every present right away.