Bring It On!
When extravagance is called for.
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I need to be fair and honest. There is another side to the bat mitzvah extravagance story. While I still can't think of any justification for hiring the latest rapper or teenage heart throb, I can think of situations that may merit lavish celebrations, situations where the expression "Who am I to judge?" rings all too true.
Many years ago I heard Rabbi Berel Wein tell a story. He had attended one of these "event simchas," in this case a wedding, with Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, the Torah luminary of the day. On their way out, Rabbi Wein made a mild though injudicious comment about the unnecessary expenditure.
Rabbi Kamenetsky then told him the host's biography. As I remember it, the father of the bride had endured the tragedy of the Holocaust, and his wife and children were murdered. He had come to America, remarried and started anew. He had become financially successful and built a new family.
"Tonight at his daughter's wedding," explained Rabbi Kamenetsky, "he got even with Hitler."
Was any celebration too grand?
And what about my friend whose son battled a childhood cancer? Each year at his birthday, she makes a meal of thanks. At every school play and presentation she is moved to tears. After such a struggle, will this young man not have a joyful bar mitzvah? Might they possibly celebrate in way that might otherwise be defined as "over the top"?
But their gratitude is also "over the top."
And then there's the couple I know who had to wait many years before they were blessed with children. For their daughter's bat mitzvah, the parents planned a very simple party.
"But mom," said the girl, "don't you want to thank everyone who supported you through those long, trying years?"
In each scenario, both parents and their children knew what they were celebrating, and why.
And so extravagant festivities were arranged instead for their daughter who had already achieved wisdom and maturity.
There is a unifying thread through these three stories that seems to make all the difference. In each scenario, as as they may be, both parents and their children knew what they were celebrating, and why.
It wasn't just an excuse for a big party, an event no different from a sweet sixteen.
It was an opportunity to say thank you -- to friends, to family, and most of all to the Almighty. Thank You God for bringing us to this day. Thank You for the triumph of good over evil, health over sickness, fertility over barrenness. Thank You for caring for us. Thank You for caring for Your people. Thank you for the renewed opportunities to celebrate.
Bring it on!