The Bar Mitzvah

Sid and I were so blessed to celebrate Sid’s cousin’s bar mitzvah in Denver last Shabbat, including Sid having the honor of doing the first aliyah at the Chasidic Orthodox service. A special joy for me was that my son Joel who lives in Denver wanted to attend the service.

My children were raised Jewish and my son’s wife is Jewish. However, their busy lives have not left room for much focus on HaShem, let alone attending Shabbat services. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it is not the busy lives that have been the obstacle, but rather, their not sensing the need for Him. I have learned that each person’s spiritual journey to find his or her relationship with our Abba is a very personal one. What we, as parents of adult children, can do is be resources of information, encouragers for the walk, and models of what a life in Him looks like.

So when Joel said he wanted to come to the bar mitzvah of the son of Sid’s cousin who Joel had just met the night before at Shabbat dinner, I was very surprised. When we arrived at shul, Joel confided that he was coming so he could spend time with me. As I headed toward the side where the women sit and can’t even be seen behind the mechitza which separates men from women in Orthodox shuls, Joel was disappointed. What he did not understand was that there’s his plan, my plan, and the only one that counts – that of our Abba.

I couldn’t see Joel, but after services Sid told me how moved my son was by the experience. As I spoke to Joel about it afterward, he shared that even though he didn’t understand much of the all Hebrew service, and the customs were different than he was used to at our synagogue, nevertheless, he could feel that it was real. In the words, songs, chanting, joyful movement of the davening, he could tell that these people felt a truth, a force beyond themselves, a beauty of being joined in community that only helped to augment what was being experienced individually.

Whether a spiritual community seemingly has all the answers or lines up on all fours with our beliefs is not the point. That HaShem uses our life’s events to reach out to us in ways we can relate to is unmistakable. And every time I see this amazing dynamic, whether in my life or in the lives of those around me, I am as moved as for the very first time. For it is a reminder of the personal nature of the relationship we have with our Creator, one which transcends all modes of expression, one constantly moving us forward to discover the deeper truths, each spiritual community having a taste of the whole, some more, some less. All, however, seeking Him and honoring Him, to the best of their abilities and knowledge at the time.

There are times in our lives when we are more able to hear Him, when we become aware that all the busy-ness feels empty when disconnected from the source of all creation. As an adult now at the bar mitzvah of this young 13 year old cousin, my son experienced a deeper understanding of the profound nature of his own bar mitzvah. My son could feel something in that room that was real. What he chooses to do with that revelation and its further unfoldings will be up to him, as it is for each of us.

Shabbat shalom.

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  1. Stacey E. Stevens

    Quite a story (and sweet that Joel wanted to spend time with you)! I recently read a passage in Exodus 24 that I had forgotten all about:

    9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw Israel’s G-d. Under G-d’s feet there was what looked like a floor of lapis-lazuli tiles, dazzlingly pure like the sky. 11 G-d didn’t harm the Israelite leaders, though they looked at G-d, and they ate and drank.

    In Exodus 19 G-d had previously warned the people:

    …Adonai will come down on Mount Sinai before the eyes of all the people. 12 You are to set limits for the people all around; and say, ‘Be careful not to go up on the mountain or even touch its base; whoever touches the mountain will surely be put to death. 13 No hand is to touch him; for he must be stoned or shot by arrows; neither animal nor human will be allowed to live.’ When the shofar sounds, they may go up on the mountain.”

    But in Exodus 24, here they all are, eating and drinking to celebrate God’s covenant in His very presence (I had completely forgotten the fact that Moses and Aaron weren’t the only ones whom God had called up on Mount Sinai!) with no separation from G-d himself, yet a relatively short time after even that experience, Aaron allows himself to be goaded into building the Golden Calf to satisfy the grumbling people!

    Makes you marvel at just how short our memories are! No wonder G-d has to keep repeating His words to us, with the admonition, “Do not forget!” All throughout the Good New According to Yochanan, Yeshua keeps talking to the people about seeing His works and believing in the Father, often to little or no avail. But then again, in Acts 28, following Yeshua’s resurrection, it says:

    17 When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.

    And these were His closest disciples!!! It’s no no wonder, then, that the prophet Jeremiah says of us:

    20 “Declare this in the house of Jacob, and proclaim it in Judah, saying,

    21 ‘Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people,
    Who have eyes but do not see…

    As it says in Proverbs 29:17-19:

    Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,
    But happy is he who keeps the law.

    How wonderful that Joel was able to sense the realness and the nearness of HaShem during the bat mitzvah, and kudos to you for being an encourager for your son’s walk, and a model of what a life in Him looks like! Thank s also for being a model of encouragement to your Ruach Israel community through your inspiring Shabbat messages (with whatever frequency they may come) and your music. You are a blessing!

    Hugz in HaShem –


  2. Diane Cohen

    Thank you, Stacele, for your amazing insights and encouragement!

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