Both religious and secular celebrations take vast amounts of time and effort. But as a Jew there’s the extra concern about the Three Weeks, that chunk of the summer that would otherwise have been perfect for a big summer party. During the Three Weeks it’s forbidden to get married, although engagements are permissible, provided there’s no large meal. But what about a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah? Unlike a wedding, these celebrations are dependent on a person’s birthday. Are families expected to postpone such a simcha until after the Three Weeks have passed?
The Metzgers, of Teaneck’s Congregation Beth Aaron, are celebrating the bar mitzvah of their son, Paul, this Shabbat. Paul was born during the Three Weeks, on the 20th of Tammuz, and his 13th birthday posed a dilemma for his parents, who had to decide whether to have the simcha be’zman or postpone it to Labor Day weekend.
When many people think of a bar or bat mitzvah nowadays, large parties come to mind. There’s music and dancing and good food. Yet, such a party is not the true essence of the simcha. The Metzgers came to the conclusion that it would be more meaningful to mark their son’s arrival at the “age of mitzvot” when he was actually born. His bris was on his great-grandfather’s yahrtzeit, for whom he is named, which adds an extra element of meaning to the celebration.
Instead of having music and dancing, Shabbat will be the focal point of the celebration. Paul will read from the Torah on Thursday morning, as well as reading the entire parsha (Parshat Pinchas, which is his Hebrew name) on Shabbat. All of the family and friends that can make it will have a “Shabbaton” type of weekend, sharing a nice meal and spending time together. As it is on Shabbat, the issue of music during the Three Weeks is completely avoided, removing one element of planning from the event.
The Three Weeks may really be a blessing in disguise when it comes to smachot in the community. People are forced to be more creative in their planning of a celebration, in order to keep all of the halachot for the period, without sacrificing the beauty of their event. Most importantly, family priorities are reset as truly important aspects of the simcha rise to the forefront.
Sara Linder is a JLNJ summer intern. She is a Teaneck resident and a student at the University of Maryland-College Park.