We had so few relatives, but so much family
Planning a bar mitzvah was a “first” for me. I started the process nine months in advance.
I had no clue about the costs of these things, nor the halachos, either. I grew up secular and poor, so bar and bas mitzvahs were simple birthday parties with cake and pizza and a few friends. When I started getting quotes for a caterer and photographer, for the invitations and the suit and hat, my heart began to race. I wondered if we could get away with a simple birthday party….
Somehow, as September, the month of the bar mitzvah, approached, everything began to fall into place. The invitations were sent out, response cards were coming in, and I started putting together the blue-and-silver centerpieces. We opted for a party, with my son’s favorite DJ (a bochur who learned in a local yeshivah), his favorite foods (hot dogs and hamburgers), and yarmulkes with his initials stamped on the side as a souvenir, which cost us an arm and a leg.
I reasoned with myself that Shlomo Zalman had so much on his plate he deserved a happy night with his friends, his parents’ friends, his school principal, and his Judaic studies teacher, Rabbi Dov. He deserved it because he’s not your average bar mitzvah bochur.
You see, Shlomo Zalman has dyslexia.
Dyslexia has led us along a tough road, with many roadblocks and a complex school experience. Yet, we’ve also been fortunate enough to meet amazing teachers.
As plans for this great celebration were coming to a close, a rav we’re close to let us know that a boy’s first aliyah to the Torah on Shabbos needs to be accompanied by a minyan of men, and a kiddush is recommended as well. I was so stressed by all the event coordination that adding “organizing a kiddush” to the to-do list was an unwelcome surprise. Of course I’d attended many a boy’s bar mitzvah kiddush, but I’d always assumed it was done simply to host the baalei simchah’s visiting family. I hadn’t realized it was recommended even in the absence of family.
So this wrench of a Shabbos kiddush made me extremely anxious. Who would come? We lived out of the neighborhood, and it’s quite a far walk for our friends. On top of that, my son doesn’t read Hebrew due to his dyslexia. For months I’d been nervous about whether he’d be able to say the brachos on the Torah. Would he come through?
These questions were swirling in my head as I ran to the supermarket, grabbing cookies, candy, and drinks off the shelves, and throwing them into my shopping cart. The rebbetzin of my shul promised me her potato kugel and cholent, and my husband went to get beef jerky because it was Shlomo Zalman’s favorite food.
I spent the entire Erev Shabbos crying. Although I’d never been invited to a Shabbos bar mitzvah event, I assumed that FFBs were always joined by a large extended family, as well as the boy’s classmates: all 30 of them. But because of our location, and the fact the kiddush was so impromptu, I didn’t expect us to have more than 20 guests.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 670)