As with many other families, our son’s bar mitzvah plans came to a screeching halt a week before it was to occur in March. We rescheduled for November, thinking things would be back to the way they were by then, but we quickly realized that November was not likely to be much different. We decided to move forward and make it happen this summer.
We wanted to celebrate at home so that we could accommodate more people. There were a lot of firsts and unknowns going into this process. How would we manage the necessary technology? How would Ethan feel not to have the clergy here with us in person? The technology was complicated and required a lot of preparation: cables were purchased, microphones borrowed, and devices charged and ready. Because of our preparation and the strength of our clergy, the remote aspect turned out to be a success. Thanks to TBE and others who came to help, we were able to bring Ethan’s community to him in Newton and bring Ethan successfully into everyone’s homes.
Although Ethan was prepared to chant Torah from his notes, we were able to borrow a Torah from TBE for the service. We met Rabbi Saphire at TBE and watched her wrap the Torah in a tallit and gently place it in an unassuming duffle bag. “Take care of our sacred Torah,” she instructed. And we did. I know Ethan felt honored to be the first congregant to leave shul with a Torah in hand. I think he felt that he was being given a responsibility that, as a newly minted Jewish adult, he was ready to take on.
The service was nothing like we had originally planned. Instead of our sanctuary, we were in our backyard. Creating an intimate and sacred space in your backyard while also running ethernet cables and managing cameras is no small task. But it was the same yard where we play, where we host friends, and where our children are growing up. What space is more sacred than that? Instead of hundreds of people at the temple sitting shoulder to shoulder, it was many fewer, but all six of Ethan’s grandparents were here with him in person.
When Rabbi Saphire called Andy and me up to bless Ethan and place our hands on his head, she asked everyone else to reach out their hands as well. And as we stood there, together with some but separated from so many, we saw, scrolling through the Zoom Gallery and in our yard, hundreds of hands reaching out to bless Ethan.
So different from what we thought it would be, yet perfect for where we are. Our house became our sanctuary, our friends and family both here and afar were our congregation. Our son became a bar mitzvah.