With COVID-19 impacting almost everything, the last few months have been unprecedented and challenging for virtually everyone on the planet. And it’s been all the more so for those in our community who have been planning family smachot such as a bar/bat mitzvah, engagement or wedding. While it has not been simple, I consider myself and my family fortunate to have the opportunity to mark and celebrate an important occasion in this unique time.
This weekend, our family will be celebrating the bar mitzvah of our son Eyal. It’s a big milestone for all of us as it’s our youngest who is really “growing up” and becoming a full-fledged member of the Jewish people and Am Yisrael, with all of its attendant responsibilities.
I am writing this column on our Wednesday deadline day. As of now, we are still not 100% sure what we are doing for his bar mitzvah this Friday and Shabbos afternoon. With the exception of the fact that we will be hosting a family-only backyard minyan on Shabbos morning, and Eyal will be leining his bar mitzvah parsha, everything is still in flux and a bit up in the air and I am trying to help my wife plan today while also working on this week’s edition.
In normal, pre-COVID-19 days, this kind of confusion and uncertainty before a bar mitzvah or any similar event would be absolutely unheard of. However, with Gov. Murphy’s latest announcement that events of up to 100 could be held outdoors with social distancing and masks recommended, we are now trying to figure out what else, if anything, could or even should, be done.
Over the past few months and especially in the last few weeks, we have gone through various stages of belief and disbelief as to what the bar mitzvah Shabbos would look like. Up until only a few weeks ago, we thought we would not be able to do anything at all and that there would be no minyan, no leyning, no family or friends in attendance—and it would basically be a regular COVID-19 lockdown Shabbos at home. In the ensuing weeks and with backyard minyanim starting, our hopes lifted a bit and we started planning a small outdoor minyan and perhaps a short drive-by “car mitzvah” for Eyal’s friends and some family on Friday afternoon but with everyone staying in their cars. Now it seems that people may be able to get out of their cars on Friday afternoon and we can host a few dozen people in our small but shady backyard over Shabbos but with social distancing and masks recommended.
Frankly, it’s hard to keep up with all of the changes and it’s driving my wife and me a bit crazy. I hear the same thing from other friends who are making weddings and other smachot in the next few weeks as they are all now scrambling for “better” outdoor spaces that could more easily accommodate more people, though certainly no one is planning on doing anything indoors as of today. Another issue for many is that even with the restrictions lifting gradually, we also need to figure out what would be the “right” thing to do for our families and friends. And of course, some family and friends are more concerned and some are less concerned about the virus and possible infection risk. This is not an easy situation to manage and make everyone happy.
There is still a lot of uncertainty around what we are going to do (FYI, I have made three decisions about what to do over the course of just getting to this paragraph), but we do know at least one thing—that our son Eyal will have a bar mitzvah this Shabbos and hopefully, it will be a beautiful Shabbos for him and our family and his friends, and maybe a few of ours also.
Now, for a few words about our bar mitzvah son, but not too many so I don’t completely embarrass him. Our son Eyal is a sweet and sensitive young man currently attending Yeshivat Noam. He has weathered the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well by commandeering our main home computer and home office. He has actually enjoyed most if not all of his online classes, although we can certainly see that it hasn’t been easy on him.
Eyal is someone who always wants to do and say the right thing and is a bit of an athlete, performer, comedian, and all around unique “personality.” As his father, I have felt almost since birth that he lives up to the meaning of his given Hebrew name Eyal which means “strength,” but which I loosely interpret as “energy” or “koach” of which Eyal has both in tremendous abundance. It’s our fervent hope that in the years ahead and as normal life returns gradually, Eyal will grow and channel all of his many strengths into doing only good things for all who know him and for the Jewish people. Mazal tov Eyal! We love you!
By Moshe Kinderlehrer,
Co-Publisher, Jewish Link