On the weekend I headed to Cape Town on a very expensive flight (late booking on a peak weekend – my fault!) for Aaron’s barmitzvah. I went for a night only – for the Friday night dinner, and shul the next day, missing the party on Saturday night (and missing out on a pizza oven and Slush Puppy stand).
The celebration had a lot of significance on several levels. The first was Aaron’s choice to have a barmitzvah, working really hard at getting there, and choosing Judaism in his life. When asked by the rabbi why he wanted to be Jewish, he spoke about having a stronger connection to his forefathers, and feeling like he wanted – and liked – a Jewish identity. He’s only 13, but he’s certainly one of the smartest “teachers” I’ve ever had, guiding me without even knowing it on perseverance, confidence and doing something that might not be easy or what everyone else is doing, but is “right”.
I was exceptionally proud of Aaron. I know it’s common for every family member to feel proud of a barmitzvah boy, but he shines in so many ways – his confidence, his good indifference to the unnecessary noise around him, his kindness and his strength. It is a privilege being his older sister.
Something else that this function triggered was a relook at Judaism and my place in shul, or rather, the fact that I haven’t been to shul in years, or felt at all connected to the religious aspect. Spiritually and traditionally I feel strongly connected, but I’ve been cold to many religious observances over the last two and a half years or so.
Being back in shul, and among a progressive community, was great. It’s got me thinking about how I can get involved in a way that I’m comfortable with, and in a way that sets you up with a healthy Jewish identity. My childhood was full of Jewish traditions and holidays, and I’m grateful for them. I’d like to offer you the same, in a way that suits us all and is true to us. I’m feeling a little less negative, and I think it largely comes from being at a barmitzvah ceremony that was all encompassing and welcoming. I even got to stand up with the rabbis and say blessings, a “privilege” that is only afforded to men in Orthodox communities. It was great to experience it this time – last time I was in an Orthodox setting, which was the Beth Din (Court of Law), I was diminished, and made to leave through the side door.
This weekend also reminded me that I have some great family. I’m often looking at what I don’t have, and the gaps I possess, without seeing the gems that fill them.
On a more frivolous note, it would be remiss of me not to mention the party on Friday night which was made up of lots of sibling selfies, great dinner, some whiskey and lots of laughter and banter. For times like these, I am so utterly grateful.
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