There was a bar mitzvah in my town recently (mazal tov, Nathan!), and since my son was one of the few boys in the grade not in sleepaway camp this summer, we were able to host the few other boys who were also home. My colleague also attended a bar mitzvah that same Shabbat, one that was held at the sleepaway camp where the boy is spending his summer.
I do not have a child with a mid-summer birthday, so I didn’t have to deal with this in my own family’s simcha planning, but we did have other considerations. My oldest’s birthday is often around Pesach time, so we had to make sure that the Omer was not an issue (we did not anticipate the Nor’easter that plagued us that Shabbat). My second has a winter birthday, so we had weather-related concerns (and, in fact, there was a big snowstorm two days prior to her bat mitzvah). My middle child’s actual bar mitzvah date was the Shabbat of Labor Day weekend, so we knew some people might be away and also that it might be very hot (it was). My fourth was a November bat mitzvah with no crazy weather-related issues—phew, finally. And my youngest, who just turned 13 in May, had a Memorial Day weekend bar mitzvah, because we had to plan around our oldest’s college graduation.
For four out of our five family simchas, we planned around something. Wouldn’t it have been nice to just pick a date and plan for the simcha?
For a child born during the summer, what’s a parent to do? Parents who want to make sure “all of their friends are there” might plan around summer and schedule the simcha after Labor Day. Should that be the most significant consideration? For some, perhaps. But then the boys are not reading the parsha that actually coincides with their birthday. That is a consideration as well.
Kudos to the families whose sons had mid-summer bar mitzvahs. I know that my son, the bar mitzvah boy and their friends had a great time, even though the whole grade was not around. It was an intimate Shabbat that allowed the boys to get closer and really interact with one another. They all had Shabbat dinner together, were front and center for the leining, enjoyed a beautiful kiddush and lunch, and then spent the rest of Shabbat outside (despite the heat).
My colleague said the same about the camp bar mitzvah. The boy spent his bar mitzvah with his friends—camp friends rather than school friends—and enjoyed a beautiful Shabbat. After Shabbat, the camp hosted an evening activity that rivaled any bnai mitzvah party, and all the kids and adults had a wonderful time.
Like my family, many “have no choice” in picking or not picking particular simcha dates. In that case, selecting the date adds unnecessary stress to the planning. Maybe we all should spend a little less time thinking about the planning, and more time thinking about the actual simcha. Isn’t that what it’s really all about?
By Jill Kirsch