I am grateful to G-d that the past seven months have offered my family moments to remember! In December, about 25 of our family and friends traveled to New York to attend the opening of my son’s Off-Broadway Show, Bare. Kvelling like you can’t believe! You don’t give birth thinking your kid will produce a Broadway musical!
But you do imagine that one day your children will come to the pulpit and recite the ancient liturgy and become a Bar Mitzvah. But when it’s your grandchild, oy vah! So farklempt! So is that day for me, July 6, as my first grandchild, Jacob, recites his Haftarah.
Our family often moves out-of-the-box for parties and simchas—like the time I made my son-in-law a baby shower for his first child! He didn’t get why it was always a party for the mom and not the dad! So he tucked a pillow in his shirt, I took a picture of him and sent it as an invitation to all his buddies and their guest! The best part of the party was when the guys had to taste and guess awful tasting baby food, then compete as to who could gulp down the fastest four ounces of beer from a baby bottle! My son-in-law opened all the gifts surrounded by his guy friends as my daughter and the girls looked on and laughed! And then there was the Backwards Birthday Party for my son, formal table setting with the first course being a hot fudge sundae, then chicken and rice, then salad—ok, you get it!
And so this party is no exception! With all those who traveled to New York in December to now join us from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, we partake in the usual Shabbat Dinner after an outdoor casual Shabbat Friday Night Service, the Bar Mitzvah Service on Saturday morning followed by a Kiddish Lunch, and we then move to a 4:30 Reception at a beautiful, private, intimate, park site!
My grandson is a jock, playing football, basketball, water polo and swim team. Too cute for his own good and not getting why girls text him all the time, he really doesn’t like being the center of attention. (His Bar Mitzvah is a twinning service with a close buddy so they will share the Torah portions.) Knowing he was overwhelmed with the year long Bar Mitzvah party-circuit every weekend, we found a venue that will be casual, no formal clothes, and full of sports and outdoor activities!
The party starts with swimming for the kids (about 60 of them!), then to water balloon volley ball, sack races, dunk-the-Bar-Mitzvah-boy in a water tank, dinner, DJ/dancing and an after-dark fire pit with roasting of S’mores.
The adults get to leave the fancy attire at home, relax in a beautiful setting, nosh, schmooze, watch the kids have a blast, dine and dance. Something a little different for a Bar Mitzvah reception!
We are all so excited as this will end the 2013 Bar Mitzvahs at our Temple and Jacob wants this to be the party-to-remember. The family has discussed the issue of appropriateness of this kind of party vs the more traditional reception. We all agreed that engaging in two Mitzvah Projects, one where Jacob and three other Bar Mitzvah boys formed a band and gave a concert in a Senior Home, he also has been collecting used sports equipment and donations for a world organization that donates to help kids who have no availability to baseballs, mitts, bats, basket and soccer balls.
Jacob has completed eight years commitment to religious school, active participation in Temple Youth Group, years of Jewish Summer Camp and will continue on to Confirmation. All this Temple involvement has given him a solid ground in Judaism and this party fits his personality and is a great way to celebrate his accomplishments!
I am very proud of him. So it is with pride and love that I will acknowledge my grandson on his special day with these words:
Jacob, as I watched and listened to you become a Bar Mitzvah, as your grandmother, Butzee, I am hard struck by the concept of time. It’s difficult to conceive of my age, let alone yours! Back in my day, people in their 60s were really OLD! But as part of the Baby-Boomer Generation, we want to know who invented “OLD? Not us!” So coming to this day, with all its meaning and tradition, is monumental for me.
You are my only grandson, first grandchild, as your mother is my first born. It holds a very special distinction for me, as I was the first born and the first grandchild. And whether someone has sat us down and told us or not, we have a responsibility to pass on to those who are younger the knowledge taught to us of our Jewish history, our heritage and customs, while continuing those traditions we celebrate with family and friends.
You see, Jacob, with knowledge, comes responsibility, and today, as you completed this age-old life-cycle event, you are committing to a very sacred responsibility. I pray you take it very seriously and never stop your Jewish education while embracing the rich and beautiful meanings that have been handed down to you.
I’d like to read something from Ecclesiastes, some of the most beautiful writings from the Bible:
One generation goes, another comes, But the earth remains the same forever. The sun rises and the sun sets…
Southward blowing, Turning northward,
Ever turning, blows the wind…
All streams flow into the sea, Yet the sea is never full…
All such things are wearisome: No man can ever state them;
The eye never has enough of seeing,
Nor the ear enough of hearing.
But yet, there is still nothing new Under the sun!
In his classic book, The Chosen, Chaim Potok tries to convey a life lesson between father and son by responding to these words from Ecclesiastes, in this dialogue:
The father says,
“Human beings do not live forever….we live less than the time it takes to blink an eye, if we measure our lives against eternity. So we may be asked what value is there to a human life? There is so much pain in the world. What does it mean to have to suffer so much if our lives are nothing more than the blink of an eye?
I learned a long time ago, says the father, that the blink of an eye in itself is nothing. But, the EYE that blinks, THAT is something!
The span of life is nothing. But the man who LIVES THAT SPAN, HE is something! HE can fill that tiny span with meaning so that its quality is immeasurable, though its quantity may be insignificant. A man MUST fill his life with meaning, meaning is not automatically given to life. It is hard work to fill one’s life with meaning, so says the father. But does the son listen?
So my Dearest Grandson, Jacob, it is my heartfelt wish to YOU…
That each day, despite that our sages tell us there is nothing new under the sun, you create for yourself a life filled with new, meaningful and happy experiences, that you continue to educate yourself and always strive to be the best YOU, not giving up because something is too difficult. I want YOU live to become the MAN Jacob Parker is suppose to be…
It is my heartfelt wish to YOU…
That you live with and pass on the traditions, celebrations and continuity of Judaism that you declared today…
It is my heartfelt wish to YOU…
THAT YOU HOLD DEAR, THAT KNOWLEDGE IS RESPONSIBILTY…
It is my heartfelt wish to you, DEAR JACOB, THAT YOU GIVE MEANING TO YOUR LIFE…
I LOVE YOU AS MY FAVORITE GRANDSON AND PRAY THAT G-D WATCHES OVER YOU AND BLESSES YOU WITH ALL THAT IS GOOD IN LIFE…
Oy vay! What’s a Baby Boomer Bubbe to do? Kvell, vhat else??
As a Baby Boomer Bubbe who still feels 18 but has four grand kids to prove this is the 21 Century, Sandra writes to leave a legacy for the next generations. Her belief that these precious kids need to know their cultural and family’s past in order for them to live their future is all the muse she needs!
She has a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Cross Cultural studies, has written a family history, personal memoir and is completing her first novel.
Her grandmother’s journey to America and life is her source for her deep belief and love for Judaism.