That’s right, a Bar Mitzvah on a Monday. I attended my first Monday Bar Mitzvah this week. I hate to say it, but when I first heard about the plans, my initial thoughts were not exactly positive. Really?! A Monday?! At a hotel?! It seemed very odd. Maybe on a Saturday in a hotel in a town where you don’t have a temple, makes sense. A Bar Mitzvah on a Monday at a hotel, in Southern California where you have temples in every direction? I had a very hard time wrapping my head around it. But the closer we got to the service and with Hanukkah fast approaching, it’s making more sense to me than ever.
My stepsisters son, Zachary, has turned 13. She, for whatever reasons, is not affiliated with a temple in her area. Yet she celebrates all of the Jewish holidays and her boys have a strong Jewish identity without the need of a temple community. For some background on my stepsister, she is one of the most outgoing, understanding and loving people I know. She has about 1 million friends not only online, but in person too. Nowadays, that’s pretty amazing. You can imagine my surprise when I found out that the event was going to be just our family. Even just family in our family is 50 people. This is a person who could easily have a party for 600. All this makes it even more surprising that she’s not affiliated with a temple. She is the epitome of a mover and a shaker and creates community everywhere shoe goes. She self-admittedly created an “atypical” event for Zach, but truly wanted the event to be as meaningful as possible.
So what does a “make-your-own” Bar Mitzvah look like? A custom siddur with quotes and photos of the Bar Mitzvah boy. A parsha hand picked to allow Zach to choose what was important for him to read at this time in his life. A “congregation” of family, everyone already knowing each other and catching up on what’s new, while reflecting on what was. A beautiful, intimate service without an ark to host the Torah, but with more love than I’ve experienced at a Bar Mitzvah in a very long time.
Like I said, I was skeptical, but the service blew all my apprehensions away. I still had my 2 rugrats to chase around, which unfortunately, kept me from experiencing the entire service and entertainment afterwards. So the only thing that stood between me and a “perfect” service were my own 2 blessings, who will someday have to deal with toddlers running around at their Bar Mitzvah services (Maybe Zach can even repay that favor himself…). The night before this special day, I came to the following conclusion, the unique circumstances built around this day didn’t make it any less important, in fact, it made it more special.
My gift to Zachary was a check (like all good Jews give) and dreidel. The note card read:
~Normally we would just send a card with a check, but today is a special day. Most people think of a dreidel as a gambling toy, but it was really a decoy so Jews could practice their religion in caves under the persecution of the Greeks. You have earned this dreidel, having chosen to practice your religion and complete your rite of passage despite facing challenges and obstacles other young Jewish men your age do not. Your “atypical” day reflects your originality, hard work, dedication to your religion and ingenuity. You’re a special young man. Judaism is lucky to have you.
Hanukkah is coming up in 2 weeks. Maccabees fought to worship in their temple in the way that was important to them, their family, their traditions. So I hope Zach continues to fight for what is important to him. Zachary the Maccabee, keep up the good work kiddo.
May the Schwartz be with you