My younger son’s bar mitzvahLit. Commandment. It is traditionally held that there are 613 mitzvot (plural) in Judaism, both postive commandments (mandating actions) and negative commandments (prohibiting actions). Mitzvah has also become colloquially assumed to mean the idea of a “good deed." was scheduled for June of 2020. My sister and family were planning to fly to us in Portland, Oregon, from Brazil, bringing my 86-year-old mother, whose excitement erased all the physical challenges the trip would entail.
As I did with my oldest son’s bar mitzvah, invitations were sent far and wide to chilhood friends and extended family abroad, knowing that they would not be able to make it and celebrate in person with us, as it happened in every milestone in my thirty years living in the US: my wedding, the brit milahLit. Covenant of circumcision. As a sign of the covenant, God commanded Abraham to circumcise himself and his descendants. An infant boy is circumcised on the eighth day of his life, often at home or in synagogue. A festive meal follows. of both of my boys, graduations from kindergarten, middle school, all the Jewish holidays, etc. The sentiment was that they would be there in spirit.
Instead, the bar mitzvah happened in our living through Zoom, with a beautiful service performed by our synagogue and rabbi, and the presence of most of our frends and extended family, near and far, reading TorahThe Five Books of Moses, and the foundation of all of Jewish life and lore. The Torah is considered the heart and soul of the Jewish people, and study of the Torah is a high mitzvah. The Torah itself a scroll that is hand lettered on parchment, elaborately dressed and decorated, and stored in a decorative ark. It is chanted aloud on Mondays, Thursdays, and Shabbat, according to a yearly cycle. Sometimes "Torah" is used as a colloquial term for Jewish learning and narrative in general., performing aliyot, and warming our hearts from their own living rooms in Brazil, IsraelLit. ''the one who struggles with God.'' Israel means many things. It is first used with reference to Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel (Genesis 32:29), the one who struggles with God. Jacob's children, the Jewish people, become B'nai Israel, the children of Israel. The name also refers to the land of Israel and the State of Israel. and the US. All together for the first time. Portuguese, English and Hebrew, all spoken simultaneously, exclamations of surprise everytime a distant relative or friend popped in a square. An unforgetable silverlining.
One of our traditions, started by my sister, is to sing the Shehekheyanu together on our kids’ bnei mitzvotLit. Commandment. It is traditionally held that there are 613 mitzvot (plural) in Judaism, both postive commandments (mandating actions) and negative commandments (prohibiting actions). Mitzvah has also become colloquially assumed to mean the idea of a “good deed.". One of the Zoom limitations is that we can’t sing together as a congregation, one of the most transporting aspects of Judaism.
So here is our Shehekheyanu, a labor of love and warmth, with my 86-year-old mother at the center, my sister and I, a cantor friend and collaborator, and dear friends from a lifetime, who have contributed to keeping us alive, sustaining us and bringing us to this day. My heart was full every time a single voice arrived at my inbox, and when the voices were joined together, they created a sustaining warmth, that is still carrying us today.