I am SOOO excited!
This weekend is my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah service, and it has turned into a huge family reunion. For a long time, we thought my 88-year-old father would not be able to manage the trip from the East Coast. Then this spring he and my stepmother decided to give it a go. And when he decided to come, his sister in Orange County decided to come too. And then her kids (my cousins) decided to come. And then their kids, even the college-age ones, decided to come! And then other cousins on the East Coast decided to come!
This is the biggest DeBare family gathering in about 15 years. It’s happening after some sad losses of aunts and uncles in my parents’ generation. We’d all kind of assumed that my dad and his sister would never see each other again in person because of the rigors of cross-country air travel. And now, in about 24 hours…. everyone will be here in one place.
Over the past couple of months, my nephew’s Bar Mitzvah preparations have reminded me what a great institution this is on a variety of levels. Certainly as a way to pass Judaism on to the next generation, and also as a way to provide teenagers with validation and a sense of accomplishment that goes deeper than having the most chic clothes or biggest bling or hottest figure.
But also simply as a life cycle event. People tend to travel huge distances to get together at births, weddings and funerals. But why limit it to those three occasions? Especially when no one remembers their own christening or bris… and no one gets to enjoy their own funeral.
And then today I was thinking about the word “simcha.” Simcha is Hebrew for happiness or joy, related to the word sameach or “happy.” But it is also used to refer to celebratory occasions like this one. “Is anyone having a simcha this week?” our rabbi typically asks at the beginning of Shabbat services.
The word simcha is much more fitting for what is happening this weekend than “celebration,” or ” family reunion,” or “festive gathering.”
We are having a gathering, yes, A celebration, yes.
But what we are really having is joy.