Sunday, June 21, 2009

Aimee's Bat Mitzvah Party

I decided to go ahead with Aimee's Bat Mitzvah party even though I end radiation only two weeks prior. The radiation will burn my skin and I may feel fatigue by the end but I didn't want to postpone this event for various reasons.

1. I won't let this canSer win and disrupt my plans.
2. Aimee will be changing after this birthday and I want to have this party before the change happens.
3. She's starting PCS in the Fall and I don't want us to have to focus on anything else - homework will be enough!
4. Now's a good time for me to have this party since I will not be afraid to ask people for help.

Chabad recommends holding the girls' Bat Mitzvah at age 12 instead of at 13, like the boys. This makes sense to me since girls do mature faster. I remember Jason being a kid at his Bar Mitzvah and then soon afterward, he started to seem like a man. His whole demeanor changed and he even was able to understand certain jokes better. He wasn't hanging with the children anymore but was sitting with the grownups enjoying our conversation.

Chabad also sees a different role for girls vs boys on their Bar/Bar Mitzvah. The boys usually learn to read from the Torah and get an aliyah during a Torah service. (An aliyah is when they are called up to bless the Torah during the Torah-reading part of the service.) Girls don't have the obligation to lead a service, so their Bat Mitzvah doesn't include reading the Torah or going to a service. That doesn't mean that they can't learn everything a boy can learn - women just have a different role than men do in a public service. Younger girls and boys (not of Bar/Bat Mitzvah age) are allowed to run around and do whatever they want during a public service...which is what attracted me to Chabad when my kids were so young. Little kids can be comfortable during a service.

The difference between how Chabad sees the roles of men and women has been controversial and the reason why many people don't like to attend their services. I, myself, have enjoyed their services, feeling much more able to concentrate on prayer when the men are on one side and the women on the other. It seems like everyone is lost in their own, private prayer that way, even though they stand and sit together and keep up with the leader. I like that. It's a more personal & private conversation - between me and my Maker although done publicly with a community. Also, I have been thrilled to see the men so involved in spiritual practice. At Chabad services, the men do everything. They can't get away with thinking that religion and being spiritual is a woman's thing. It's a kick seeing them dance together with the Torah on the holiday of Simchas Torah. (When do you ever see men let themselves go and dance together with joy?) In my opinion, men need to have all this required of them, otherwise they just won't do it. We women on the other hand do not need any of this required of us. We are spiritual already. We don't need to be commanded to be. We just are.

Mothering is part of that. I believe that motherhood is a very spiritual process and am not surprised that the religions of the ancient past had women gods and fertility rites. Women go through birth and are connected to the children that come from their bodies in ways men just aren't. Your children are like pieces of your own body walking around outside of you. Their education and their care and their lives end up being your life no matter how much fathers participate these days. There are just basic differences between men and women that go very deep. So deep that it may also be more difficult for women to emotionally separate from their children when they need to let go. Of course these are generalizations and many of you may disagree.

But that's just my opinion.

And that doesn't mean that Chabad excludes girls and women from learning. The girls are required to light candles on Shabbos by the time they are 3 years old. They learn to pray and learn to read Hebrew before they even learn to read English. They also know about all the holidays and are Shomer Shabbos from as early as they can understand all the rules. And they know the rules of tsniut and Kashrut from infancy - just like the boys do.

Aimee has been involved with Chabad since she was 2 years old. She's been lighting a Shabbos candle since she was 3. She attended Ima and Me, Hebrew school, and now Bat Mitzvah club. At her Bat Mitzvah party, there will be no service. Instead, we will enjoy a lunch and she will give a speech, teaching us something she has learned. Bailly and Yochanon told me that she already knows so much that it won't be difficult for her to prepare for her Bat Mitzvah speech.

So this is the official/unofficial invite to you all. I hope I've given you enough time to plan either a trip to Santa Cruz or a trip to the West Side. The date, G-d Willing, will be Sunday, July 26th at 11:30am, at the DeAnza Mobile Home clubhouse. So there's your invite until I learn how to use and send you an email invitation!

Since today's Father's Day I can't just leave this update only writing about how important mothers are! This Father's Day is particularly poignant for me this year. I gave Geoff a card today where I had written, "Congratulations. Today you are a Man!" Then I crossed that out since it's really supposed to be a Bar Mitzvah card. But truly, he really stepped up this year as both a man, husband, and father. I haven't had to lift a finger to wash dishes, make dinners, lunches or breakfasts, drop off and pick up kids from schools, put kids to bed or help with homework, do laundry, or do bills. Luckily, I'm feeling so well these days that I was able to get the kids to help me make him a delicious chocolate crepe breakfast this morning.

My own dad has always been a tremendously loving presence in my life. And although he can't seem to figure out how to use his computer and get on these carepages, he has been there for me this year and all my life. I can't tell you how many Harry & David packages we've gotten over the past 9 months but right now, a frozen H & D turkey sits waiting to be cooked. I also have tons of Trader Joe's gift cards sitting in my wallet thanks to Dad. But nothing will match how often he's asked me since diagnosis when he can come up to visit.

Aren't fathers fabulous? Yes, indeed they are. Happy Father's Day everyone!