My son’s bar mitzvah date was Jan. 8, 2022, and when the date was set back in 2020, we felt certain that the pandemic would be a thing of the past by the time we gathered for this simcha. As the date approached, however, it became very clear that this was wishful thinking. Not only was the pandemic still with us, but thanks to Omicron, it was surging around the globe and our home region of the Northeast was a notable hotspot. As an added bonus, the first major winter storm of the season was predicted here in Boston for the day before the big event. It was the perfect storm in every way.
We decided the only way to ensure that all four of us would make it to the bima would be to keep the kids home from school and just live essentially under lockdown those final three weeks until the big day. It was like April 2020 all over again. I even started making bread from scratch, again! When I had to leave the house, I wore double KN95 masks. At one point, I asked my 10-year-old daughter if she had left the house at all and had any fresh air. With certainty, she answered, “I went to the mailbox on Wednesday.”
People kept asking me how many people we were expecting at the kiddush luncheon or the party that evening. I shrugged but was not concerned. It’ll be what it’ll be. Maybe 20? Maybe 60? The only thing I could control was the health of the four of us, and I was desperate not to reschedule the bar mitzvah. I hoped to have our clergy with us in-person and breathed a huge sigh of relief when I learned that our rabbi had also kept his school-aged children home to protect their health during the crazy week following winter break when everyone knew that the spread of Omicron was inevitable.
Having a bar mitzvah in the midst of all of this taught me how little control I have over anything. Also, I came to peace with others having to do what made sense for them and their families. I learned that I can’t judge anyone’s choices and I hope that others will, in turn, respect mine. I learned empathy in a new and profound way.
I stood on the bima with my son and my husband and looked out at the intimate congregation of family and friends. I was touched that people did show up and I really felt the support of those watching on the livestream—or the “love stream,” as I have come to think of it. I looked at everyone’s masked faces and I thought how powerful it was to see people showing up in the midst of so much stress and uncertainty. I felt connected to my ancestors, who maintained these traditions in the midst of much scarier and uncertain times. It was an awesome feeling. A feeling of unity with my past and present.
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