I had so many hopes, dreams and visions for Max’s Bar Mitzvah. I was planning him a Maxopoly Extravaganza party and so many family members were coming into town to celebrate. I put so much time and energy into this event. He is my first born so I felt extra pressure to make it a very special event.
Your Bar Mitzvah is usually around your birthday. Max turned 13 on January 24th. I thought it would be fun to do a Superbowl themed Bar Mitzvah in late January or early February. Everyone was worried about doing an event in the winter. My mother in law didn’t think her family would come to town if we did it in the heart of a Buffalo Winter. She asked us to skip winter. Max thought we should wait until May. He wanted it to be after the flu season with the hopes that no one would be sick. For the past two years Lillie my youngest daughter was sick on Max’s birthday. Ironically, we were all healthy on Max’s birthday this year! I have to laugh about all of this. If I would have done it when I wanted, it would have been over well before the whole pandemic occurred. March 16th everything changed in our area. Schools and businesses closed, and the quarantine began.
Our resilient children are dealing with so many disappointments. Performances, recitals, tournaments, proms, graduations….all cancelled. I asked my husband if he could imagine having his prom cancelled? We talked to our cousin who is a senior in high school yesterday. She doesn’t know what is going to happen with her graduation ceremony. Her prom was cancelled. She doesn’t know if she will be able to go away to college as she plans to. So many unknowns and so many disappointments right now.
It is a time for being creative and for celebrating things in a different way. It is a time for being flexible and learning to go with the flow. Max taught me a huge lesson in this. When we told Max that we were going to do his Bar Mitzvah over Zoom he didn’t flinch. He doesn’t like to be in the spotlight and maybe this was working out for the best. Not only did Max feel okay about this, we were also going to be our synagogues first Zoom Bar Mitzvah. Seth is on Zoom every day for work. He runs multiple Zoom meetings a day. Who better than to do the first Zoom Bar Mitzvah than Seth? I was finding the Silver Lining and some meaning in doing the Zoom Mitzvah. I saw that my son was okay with this. I saw that my husband was able to execute this. I was nervous and disappointed, but it was time to proceed forward and make this happen for Max, our family, our friends and our synagogue.
Normally the Synagogue, Rabbi and Cantor have everything ready for a Bar Mitzvah. The parents sit in the first row watching and the clergy direct the service. They normally would stand next to Max and help him through the whole service. As we collected everything and organized everything for the service, I quickly realized that I had to help to direct this event from our home. I made an appointment with myself that I was not allowed to expect perfection. However it went down, I had to simply stay in a state of thankfulness that this was able to take place. We were moving forward with the Bar Mitzvah in a world full of social distancing and Zoom meetings.
There are a ton of good reasons to do a rehearsal. Aside from getting to go over everything and getting everyone together, we quickly realized that my dining room plan was not going to happen. The Wifi signal was terrible, and we were cutting in and out. Not only were we doing a Zoom Service, we were now moving it upstairs into our bedroom. I laughed and decided that our Wifi signal was much more important than what room we were sitting in.
Everything was organized in our bedroom and we were all dressed up and ready to go. I said a prayer for technology to be on our side and off we went on a journey into a Zoom Mitzvah. I didn’t know what to expect but I kept my expectations low and off we went……
Max took this all in stride. Calm as a cucumber he flipped from page to page and lead the service and sang his prayers and blessings beautifully. I soaked in his deep beautiful voice savoring every moment. My mama heart was full, and I couldn’t believe the emotion I was still feeling even though we weren’t in our Synagogue. I saw all the attendees on Zoom and Facebook, and I could feel and sense the love and support around us. Just seeing our Rabbi, Cantor, all the grandparents, uncles, aunts cousins, Max’s tutor, our temple administrator and our dear friend Bruce up on Zoom with us made me feel so supported. Knowing our Rabbi was at our Synagogue during the service helped me to feel like we were still having it “there.” Max was still doing everything that he would have done anyway, and it was still feeling extremely real and extremely amazing. As a parent you dream of days like these, but you never know how it truly feels until you are there. I tried to put my feelings into words for a speech that I wrote for Max. I will share it with you here as I know that people couldn’t hear all of it. Seth and I decided that we would both say parts of it to Max and Seth wasn’t close enough to the microphone to hear him. Here it is:
To Our Dearest Max,
You hear me say this all the time and here I go again. We remember the first moment we saw you like it was yesterday. It was one of the most significant moments in our life. We remember holding you in our arms for the first time and never wanting to let go. We remember thinking about this day as we looked into your eyes. 13 years felt like such a far time away. We knew this day would come we just didn’t know how fast it would happen. These 13 years have flown by.
You impress us every single step of the way. You went from walking to running very quickly. You went from talking to sentences very quickly. You just decided one day that you were going to ride your bike without training wheels. You seem to learn everything very quickly. You are a fabulous soccer goalkeeper and we love watching you fiercely protect the net. Whether it’s school, Hebrew school, technology, or a sport, you take off running. We had no doubts about you being able to do your Bar Mitzvah today with flying colors.
Listening to you perform all your prayers makes us so very emotional and proud. You did such a fabulous job as we knew you would. Your great grandparents, your grandparents, and your parents are all connected to you today as you say each prayer. It means a lot to me today that you are wrapped in your great grandfather’s Tallit. Maybe now that you have done this you understand the importance of the traditions that are passed down from generation to generation. It makes us all feel connected and unified. We hope that one day we will be standing with your children having their Bar or Bat Mitzvah.
We had visions for this day. We saw you up on the Bimah doing all of this in our synagogue. The same synagogue where your father and I also had our Bar and Bat Mitzvah. We definitely didn’t imagine we would be doing this in our bedroom. We had visions of so many family and friends being together with us on this day. You had family from all over the country flying here to be with you today. As you know, significant events have occurred to keep us from doing this. You have handled all the changes with such grace. You always seem to just go with the flow of life. That is an amazing quality that you have.
As I cried about today, I looked at you okay about everything and it has helped me through this. We want you to know that your family and friends are all still with you right now. We have never been more thankful for technology than we are at this very moment. It is allowing us all to be together. Relatives in California, Arizona, Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, Massachusetts, and more are here with you today.
These 13 years have been beyond amazing. Wonderful, fabulous, terrific, and so beautiful. Getting to be your parents is such a blessing. You sailed through Elementary school, you are sailing through middle school, and we can’t wait to see what lies ahead for you. You are so smart, sweet, athletic and funny. You are a wonderful big brother to your sisters and to our fur babies. You are a wonderful son, grandson, nephew, cousin and friend. You make us laugh all the time.
If I ask you to help me with something you are there in a heartbeat to see what I need. You are our firstborn. You do such an amazing job paving the way for your sisters. We sincerely couldn’t have asked for a better son. Thank you for being you. Thank you for spending so much time studying for today. It means the world to us. We love you more than words could ever write, and we are so extremely proud of you Max.
Love, Mom and Dad
That was my best attempt at expressing myself to my son. I almost got through the whole speech. My tears couldn’t be held back by the end!
It was special and magical and meaningful even though it wasn’t at all what I ever would have planned. You may not be able to do your event, party or birthday how you had planned. It is a time for you and your family and friends to get creative and make some different, new, strange, magic happen. Don’t let your special days go by! If you have a birthday, celebrate your day! If it’s Mother’s day find a way to celebrate. If you have a Bar Mitzvah, take it to Zoom. If you were supposed to do a musical, try doing it virtually. It’s time to change our visions and adjust our goggles. It’s time to think outside of the box. Just because everything has been done a certain way doesn’t mean it has to be done like that.
My takeaways from the Zoom Mitzvah:
- Don’t let your special day pass by without celebrating.
- Try not to cancel things because you don’t know when you will be able to reschedule. Better to do something instead of nothing!
- Think outside the box.
- Change your vision.
- Find a way to celebrate.
- You can still be together virtually. It’s not the same but it’s better than nothing.
- Lower and change your expectations.
- We can still make special days and special events special. Different yes and also still special!
I want to sincerely thank from the bottom of my heart every single person who attended Max’s Bar Mitzvah virtually with us. I wanted so badly to be together. However, I felt you all around us. I felt the love. Don’t let your special days pass by. It’s a different time but it’s still a time to celebrate special moments. Cheers to you all. May us all be able to be together soon. Much love from my family to yours.
Laughing, Learning, Loving,
Rebecca Greene, LCSW-R