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Today was supposed to be my son’s Bar Mitzvah.


The Bar (son) Mitzvah (good deed) (Bat Mitzvah for girls) is a coming of age ceremony celebrated in Judaism at age thirteen. According to Jewish Law it is when they become responsible for their own actions and able to participate in all aspects of the Jewish  traditions including rituals, traditions and ethics. To commemorate they read from the Torah (bible) during a ceremony on Shabbat (Sabbath), often followed by a celebration.


I had been planning it in some form since I  recovered from his Bris (circumcision).


A trip to Israel, becoming a man in Jerusalem, at the wailing wall was my first choice.


Renting a suite at Comerica Park, during a game with his beloved Tigers, was the plan for many years after he fell in love with baseball and we took a tour of the facility and saw the suites.


We had settled on a kiddush luncheon at the temple following the Saturday morning service. Baseball theme. Memorial Day weekend, perfect for all the travellers from the States (Detroit to Wndsor, Ontario) and the few from areas further away. But more importantly on the Yahrzeit (anniversary of death) of my uncle Jerry, who is also his namesake. (Jews honor the dead by naming in their memories and inspiring them to live up to their better qualities).


The invitations sit in a box in the guest room. They were going to be mailed upon our return from Phoenix over his school break in March, the week the world that we knew fell apart. Spring training cancelled. NBA cancelled. The fear of flying and the empty airport, the first sign of what lay ahead. Self isolation. Online school. Far too many walks with me.


In the years between my parents’ passing and the planning of this occasion (roughly ten years) I had not considered emotionally how difficult it would be to not have them there. It was not like my niece’s bat mitzvah, weeks after my mother had passed, when we were all so raw it was somewhat trance like. And it was not like the weeks and months and years that had passed where I had gotten somewhat used to the day to day routine of their physical absence. It was a profound sadness, the loss of the photo that played in my mind with them standing beside him. 


My son had studied, and continues to do so, with the Rabbi in preparation. In addition to reading from the Torah he would also give a sermon relating to the portion. I had hoped to assist him. I had hoped to find symbolism to relate to what those who were missing represented. To honor him last night the Rabbi had him speak about what he had learned thus far during his studies and discuss them at the Zoom Shabbat service. He spoke of the importance of the Jews being given the Torah on Mount Sinai  and the symbolism of the location.


He did not speak of the symbolism of his Bar Mitzvah being on the Yahrzeit of his namesake. His father and I were unable to present him with a Talis (shawl) that is traditional at the ceremony. Specifically the talis that we had planned to give him—the one that my father had given his father when we got married. 


We were unable to speak of his Mitzvah project—usually a service project to help demonstrate their commitment to jewish adulthood. Continuing in the custom of his cousins and at the beholden of his Bubby (grandmother) who he didn't know, Jaron chose a project of working with cognitively  and physically impaired children. I was in awe as I observed him interact with these kids at a weekly bowling league and sad only that I had not documented it. His compassion and energy overwhelmed me and almost every week I wanted only to phone my mother on the way home to tell her how proud she would be. She had grown up with a cognitively impaired aunt in the forties and fifties and was offended by the ‘R’ word decades prior to it becoming insulting in mainstream culture.


I know later this summer there will be a formal ceremony, that despite the sadness of the actual day the story is not over and that there will be a Bar Mitzvah Boy--on his way to becoming a man.

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