My older brother read from the Torah on the night of his Bar Mitzvah. In the sanctuary, my eyes were glued to the bimah as I sat with loved ones surrounding me. Looking around at all the people who came to support him, my heart felt warm. Every person sitting there had a deep connection to my brother and my family, and I was so thrilled we were all joined together for a happy occasion.
From that moment on, at just ten years old and naive to the preparation involved, I was excited about my own Bat Mitzvah. I was committed to working hard, learning my Torah portion, and finding meaning in the day. My Bat Mitzvah would be in May of 2020, and I couldn’t wait.
Little did we know that, in fact, I would have three different Bat Mitzvah dates.
My Bat Mitzvah invitations were sent out about two weeks before our country went into a total shut down. My family and I were not confident but had hoped circumstances would be better by May.
As you know, circumstances didn’t get any better.
I woke up on May 2nd, 2020, and didn’t know what to do with myself. My mind was wandering as this was originally my scheduled Bat Mitzvah date. Throughout the day, I thought to myself, what would I have been doing in this exact moment if there was no pandemic?
The feeling of comfort came over me when my parents planned a group Zoom with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Even though I wasn’t going up to a Torah, this gave me a chance to share what I worked so hard to learn.
“DING” the Zoom call sounded as my family joined the meeting. It was a relatively new sound that, by now, most of us have gotten used to.
I fumbled with my fingers as I sat in front of my family on a computer screen. For the first time, my confidence felt a little uneasy. I looked down at my Torah pages and I was about to sing out loud. They all quieted down and waited for me to start my (first) Parsha, and I took a deep breath. My mouth formed the words and my voice carried the tune. My insides were doing flips, but I felt better as I went along. Despite the unfortunate situation, I was extremely happy I could mark the day with my loved ones.
A few days later, my temple offered to host a virtual Bat Mitzvah service for me. I immediately knew that this was not what I wanted. Thinking back to my brother’s service, I remembered the love, support, and deep joy in the air that day. Every single person could feel it!
With everything happening, I knew that it would be unsafe to gather in person. Still, my hopes for my Bat mitzvah did not change. I could see myself standing in my lavish dress, all made up with hair and makeup. My mom would look elegant and my father and brother would wear matching suits with purple ties to match my color theme. I saw my friends of all faiths enjoying my culture and celebrating with me, even if they were not Jewish themselves. I wanted to connect to the fact that I was becoming a Bat Mitzvah, and I desperately wanted to do that with everyone I loved– not just a few. This was my motivation. I held on to my vision, I knew it could still happen. I’d just have to wait.
We informed my temple that we would nix the virtual event and schedule an in-person date in October 2020. I was happy that this date had been chosen, but due to the coronavirus, I was not overly confident that it would really happen. As discouraged and upset as I was, I knew I couldn’t do anything except to wait. And the more we waited, the clearer it became that my service, yet again, would need to be postponed.
We decided to postpone just one more time. This time, the service was scheduled for June of 2021–a year and a month after the original date!
Through it all, my parents always reminded me that there were people worse off than us, that this was a time when so many were struggling. They were exactly right. I read and watched about all the lives lost due to Covid-19. I knew I could feel sorry for myself and the loss of the day I had envisioned, but I was grateful for each and every healthy moment I had with my loved ones.
Despite my exhaustion with it all and my deteriorating spirits, I continued practicing. A few months went by, and I became excited again as my new, electronic invitations were sent out. As time went on, things were getting better and better. We had eventually finalized our guest list, and my vision seemed like it was becoming reality. The people that I loved would be able to attend my in-person service.
The day had finally arrived: June 19, 2021. It was the best day of my entire life. I stood there in front of everyone I loved, taking it all in before the service even started. I watched everyone socialize, laugh, and smile beneath their masks. I was proud of myself for never giving up despite the obstacles that came my way.
In the weeks leading up to the day, I read through my speech every night. I had written about what my Torah portion means to me, how sometimes it is important to get out of your comfort zone and do the right thing to help others. This is something that I wanted everyone who would be in attendance to take away from my speech. I want it to stick to them like glue and they will never forget it. It is easy to get caught up in your own needs and worries, but it is important to remember that someone else in the world has more needs, and it is important to help those people. That is what my Torah portion taught me.
Standing on the Bimah, I reminisced upon the journey that I had taken in order to achieve this magical night. With the last Amen, I knew that sometimes, memories are worth the wait.