At the beginning of the summer my wife and children and I attended a bar mitzvah for the grandson of one of my cousins back in New Jersey. It took a lot of planning, and departing at summer’s start was hectic; we wound up devoting an entire week to traveling, attending and enjoying this wonderful family event. Before it was over I cried with both joy and pathos for the beauty of the passing of the Torah scroll from generation to generation; for the entire history of the Jewish people; for the more recent history of my family; and for thinking of some of the trials and tribulations, joys and successes that had already come into the life of this particular boy whose bar mitzvah it was that day. Once returned home, I was very glad that we had gone there, despite the significant effort it took.
Then, just a couple of weeks ago, right here at home, I decided to go to Saturday morning services here at Shomrei Torah. I got here just at 10:30 a.m. and was surprised that the cars in the parking lot were already almost down to the entrance. I realized that I must have stumbled onto a bar or bat mitzvah right here in Santa Rosa, at my own congregation, although not intentionally. I got over my first blush of discomfort for not being dressed more formally and decided that since I was already here, I should certainly go into the sanctuary; that I could slip into a back row; so I parked and entered.
The back row idea didn’t work out; all the seats were taken except for a few way up in the front, up close, so that’s where I wound up sitting. After just a few moments I forgot all about my Sonoma County informal garb as I was completely drawn in by the ceremony that I was now witnessing and taking part in along with the rest of the congregation who were present, joining the child’s family and friends in celebration of their b’nai mitzvah.
Just as I had been enthralled a month earlier for a similar family event, I was once again completely captivated by being present with this other family, one I had never even met, as their child stood at the end of a line on the bimah, and the scroll was passed down from generation to generation, to carry forward the Jewish tradition of honoring the Torah’s mitzvot.
Along with everyone else present, I laughed and I cried as the service went on, speeches were made, gifts presented; and especially when the child’s mother and father each spoke of their heartfelt love and pride in the moment. It was truly beautiful; it was just one perfect explanation (among many others) for why we have all come together in Santa Rosa to form Shomrei Torah: to carry forward our traditions.
When the service ended and I had stood in line to congratulate the family, and had helped many others set out the tables and rearrange the chairs, and was ready to leave, I was reminded that I was also invited to the kiddush and meal about to be served. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay any longer, so I walked back to my car and left.
As I drove away, I realized that I had just had the great pleasure to experience, without having to go through twelve hours of travel in both directions, as truly a beautiful simchah as the one I’d attended back East a month earlier.
And I’ve got some news for each and every one of you now reading this: you are invited now, and always, to the next b’nai mitzvah at our synagogue, and to the one after, and the one after that. Come and join us, your fellow congregants, and the b’nai mitzvah children, and their families and friends, and come be a part of our traditions, our heritage and our lives.