Max’s Torah portion was Vayikra – about sacrifices Jewish people had to make. We were able to connect all the dots in his speech.
Here is part of his speech:
I would like to share a personal story of transition that my family has had to struggle through. It all begins with my grandparents: at an age when most people consider retirement, my grandparents were planning an exodus of their own. The goal was to reach America and start a better life. I cannot imagine the sacrifices my family had to endure in order to make a better life for us in America, but everyday I try to show them that their struggles were not in vain. My Grandparents and Parents sacrificed their health, their status, and their friendships all for their children’s future. They came to America with their past still haunting them. They were running from the anti-Semitic culture and abuse that they had grown up around, wanting a life for my brother and me that is free from discrimination, allowing us opportunities that would have never been possible back in Russia. Without their help and guidance, I would never be where I am today; for that I am forever grateful and eternally indebted to them.
Great, right?! Well, while Alex – older son – was working on Max’s speech, Max was complaining about the use of “big” words. Keep in mind he had to read from the Torah in Hebrew (which required 8 months of tutoring) and then read his speech, so I can’t blame him for being a little concerned. By the way he did an amazing job at the Bimah reading his part. I am saying this not because I am a proud mama, but because he was really, really good. In preparation for becoming a man, he studied, he volunteered his time, he really showed us that he could be a responsible young man.
In the mean time Max was pushing for the party – of’ course my darling you will have a party. …. and the madness began.
Me: Max we are inviting all our relatives from NY, NJ, CT and Canada – it’s a family event and they have to be a part of it.
Max: Of course Mom, I want all my cousins with me, but I also want all my friends and there are about 70 of them.
About half and hour later when I finally was able to speak again, I said to him that he is only allowed to have 30 kids.
Max: If we are having 70 adults – I am having 70 kids, it’s my party and I worked hard for it.
Three weeks into it we finally agreed on 60 adults and 60 kids….. and just like that I wasn’t planning a Bar Mitzvah party anymore, I was planning a “wedding”.
Invites – check,
Decorator – check,
Don’t forget we are Russians, so we needed to have a Russian DJ too and Russian food.
I had the sense to tell Max that this is not a competition and we will not be throwing the most expensive party, that would be forgotten the day/week later. It’s so easy to lose track of what the Bar Mitzvah is all about, but we were determined to make this about family no matter what.
I guess at the age of 13 you want to be the same as everyone else, but we convinced Max to be different and not to be afraid to show his Russian roots, even if he thinks his Russian roots a bit embarrassing.
The best part about this whole event is to be able to share it with our immediate and extended family and with our friends, who, just like us left the USSR to practice or not to practice whatever religion they chose – Catholic, Orthodox Christian or Jewish.