Our middle son has cerebral palsy, is 23 years old and lives at home. Often on our outings to the mall, people will stop us to pray for our well-being, many times bringing up Jesus’ name. My wife reacts rudely to these people. I smile and say thanks and walk on. I don’t think it hurts for someone to pray for us; my wife feels they ought to mind their own religious business and butt out of ours. Otherwise we both welcome friendly people. Who is right?
— What would Moses do?
Mind their own religious business, or mind their own family business? I’m all for prayer. And though the mention of Jesus’ name would also make me pause, I accept all forms of good will, good wishes and prayer. (I would probably draw a line at the Bible-thumping, proselytizing variety.)
I can’t help but wonder if people would stop you and offer their prayers if you were walking in the mall with one of your other children. I suspect that your wife’s reaction is as much about people minding her family business as it is about the mention of Jesus’ name. The good wishes of perfect strangers in a mall could feel less like prayer and more like pity. That would not feel comfortable to anyone. Your son may have limitations that are more apparent than those of the other bargain-hunters strolling through the mall. Remember that you and your family are in no more need of prayer because of it than any other shoppers.
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My wife and I are planning our son’s bar mitzvah in Israel this summer. Since only a few of our relatives will be traveling with us, we are also having a local “celebration” for the benefit of the rest of our family and friends. We are purposely refraining from using the term bar mitzvah since that is in Israel. The local celebration includes Friday night dinner, Shabbat Kiddush, Sunday brunch and a Saturday night kids’ party. How do we diplomatically tell our out-of-town relatives that the Saturday night party is just for the kids? Also, how do I rein in my wife so that the celebration doesn’t turn into a bank buster, especially since we have two more bar mitzvahs after this?
— Party planning redux
To quote Shakespeare: A rose by any other name is still a rose. It doesn’t matter what you choose to call it, if you are having a Friday night dinner, Shabbat Kiddush and Sunday brunch for the out-of-towners — you are throwing a bar mitzvah
There are any number of solutions to your problem. You could throw a big Saturday night bash to celebrate your son’s coming of age — one party for the adults, a separate one for the kids. Those who choose to travel long distances will know exactly what to expect. Your son can have an aliya in shul, and you can host a Shabbat Kiddush following services. Anything else would rocket you into the full-blown bar mitzvah category.
But if the Israeli portion of your celebration is indeed the meaningful part for your family — a choice I applaud wholeheartedly — why not bypass altogether the Western pomp and ceremony? Write a lovely letter explaining the religious and historical importance of having the bar mitzvah in Israel. Throw a big bash for your son and his friends — the real focus of the event anyway — and spend only postage on the rest of the intended guests. Your bank account would not suffer, and you would have the freedom to decide how to celebrate the additional bar mitzvahs coming your way.