Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Party's Over

The bar mitzvah of my son Yitzchak is now past tense. I woke up the morning after the party and the last thing I wanted to do was get out of bed. I was in a state of utter exhaustion and burnout.

Dov and I had really struggled to give this kid a kiddush and party to remember, but it was pretty much a do-it-yourself event. Or rather two events: the kiddush after services on Shabbes and the party Tuesday night. There were also the two big meals I made for our family for Shabbes, so make it three or four big DIY events.

I have good neighbors and friends and they pitched in. But I guess I did more than I'd realized. After I straightened up the house and did a couple of loads of laundry yesterday, I went back to bed and slept and slept and slept. I arose at 3:50 for one reason only: I had to daven mincha. Maybe two reasons, actually--I was afraid that if I didn't get up then, I'd be up all night, completely off schedule, and miserable.

I had choir last night and it was a pleasure to get back to doing something just for ME. I reveled in having the pressure off of me for a change. Then I went home and chilled with Dov for a bit. Finally, I went to sleep and wonder of wonders, slept through the night.

I guess I knocked myself out more than I'd known with this whole bar mitzvah thing, but I can look back at the event with a sense of joy and accomplishment. Dov and I strained to give Yitzchak a kiddush and party to remember and in that regard I believe we acquitted ourselves well. You can see in the following video (Credits: My son Natan Epstein, the videographer) that a great time was had by all.

Dov gave a little speech at the party in which he recounted incidents about Yitzchak that really illustrate the way he has always been wise beyond his years, a bit of a nudnik, but in lots of ways, an adult in a kid's body. I thought I'd share some of these stories, which are family stories but in this context, feel appropriate for sharing with the world.

I was always careful to say the Shema prayers with my children before they went to sleep at night. One Friday night, during synagogue Shabbes services, after the Shema prayer was said, Yitzchak just naturally segued into HaMalach HaGoel Oti, the next part of the bedtime prayers.

His little voice was so pure and sweet that no one wanted to stop him and so no one did, even though this was technically an interruption of the evening service. Yitzchak's rang out in the synagogue and everyone listened rapt.

It was a moment of great parental pride and joy for Dov. I wish I had been there.

At the time Yitzchak was born, we lived on an isolated, mountaintop settlement where there were few signs of civilization. We had no place to buy groceries or other supplies on the Yishuv. So when we moved to Efrat, the kids enjoyed the new atmosphere of consumerism they encountered.

One day, a neighbor started off to the grocery store. Yitzchak decided to follow along. He was three.

He crossed a busy street behind the neighbor and no one noticed. When they arrived at the supermarket and wheeled a cart into the store, Yitzchak did the same.

They piled groceries into their cart and Yitzchak piled groceries into his cart. Instead of the fruit, chicken, and canned goods of our neighbor, Yitzchak piled his cart with chocolate, potato chips, pop, and ice cream. When he deemed his cart sufficiently full, he wheeled himself over to the cash register and unloaded his stuff for the cashier to total.

That is when we got the phone call to come get him.

When Yitzchak was nine, the Sukkos festival (Festival of Booths) was fast approaching when Dov fell ill and was unable to build our Sukkah hut. A neighbor who was an important rabbi came over with his sons to do us the kindness of building us a Sukkah. The rabbi came out to my veranda, looked around and pointed to a certain spot, saying, "I think this is a perfect location."

But earlier, I had looked around on my own to see where the Sukkah should be built. I had pointed to the same spot and Yitzchak had pointed upward. "You can't build it here, because there is an overhang from the veranda of the apartment above us."

I pointed out the same problem to the rabbi. The rabbi admitted that Yitzchak was right! A nine year-old had spotted a problem the rabbi and I had missed!

This year, Yitzchak and Asher went out the first night of Sukkot for a custom we call "Sukkah-hopping." Kids go see neighborhood sukkah booths and neighbors put out treats for them. At one sukkah, a neighbor showed off a beautiful Esrog (citron) to my boys. It was large and particularly fine. Alas, as Yitzchak pointed out, the Esrog was not Kosher for sacramental use on Sukkos. The little lecture the neighbor gave my boys turned out to be educational all right--not for my boys--but rather for the neighbor who learned a thing or two from Yitzchak about what makes a citron Kosher or non-Kosher for use on Sukkos!

At Yitzchak's party, Malka put up a large poster board on which she'd made a collage of photos I'd gathered the day before. She left room for Yitzchak's friends to scribble their congratulations to the Bar Mitzvah boy. The photos we used in the collage depict Yitzchak at various stages in his life. I've scanned the photos and posted them here (not necessarily in order) so you can get the full flavor of this remarkable young man.


  1. Varda, this is what is all about! I teared up in several places. I birthed 2 challenging and precocious sons. I am in awe of the thought of having the koach for eight! The punim on your kids, when they were small are absolutely edible!! Much naches in the future. You done good!!!!

  2. Well, once again I can write, "well done Varda"! I can feel the pride & emotions, I believe, in all that I read of The Judean Rose.
    I have been missing it, btw, with the holidays & not being on the computer much lately. I also thought I had already joined your site...did everything but hit the 'done' button quite a while back...silly, I know.
    Anyway, I so enjoy reading about your kids & your experiences with them! This is a lovely piece, Varda, just lovely.

  3. Susan, I have TWELVE children, not eight. 8 sons, 4 daughters!

    Thanks Dawn, for taking the time to leave a comment.

  4. Varda, I didn't forget about your lovely girls. I was more or less relating to the raising of SONS, since that is my only experience....and I was looking at the picture of your hubby, with the boys.:) Now, with my granddaughters, I can finally see what I was missing---a great deal of whining! My little munchkins are such a blessing...and equally exhausting. Anyway, I really enjoyed the video!

  5. Varda,
    You should take pride in your accomplishments: not only giving birth to 12 wonderful children, but also raising them with such love & care in the spirit of the Torah.
    May you have continued Nachas from each and every one of them! Mazal Tov!
    Love, Zohar

  6. Amen! Ken yehi ratzon and back at ya, Zohar!

  7. So beautiful, filled with love, hard work, pride, and all the intangible loveliness that comes back in parenting.

  8. Thanks, Merle. You make me feel less guilty for posting pix instead of actually writing anything ;-)