My Personal Cantor

Sharing the Light – Preparing a Young Boy for His Bar Mitzvah 1,000 Miles Apart

What an amazing, heartwarming experience I had tonight.  I cannot wait to share this awesome story.

When I performed Yelena’s wedding in the DR last month, she couldn’t wait for me to meet her friend, Sharon, who I wrote about in a previous blog entry.  Sometimes, you meet someone, and you know the connection is soooo strong, but you just don’t know how or why, and that was the story with Sharon.  We truly were like soul sisters, and we both knew that had 1000 miles not been between us, we would be best friends forever.

Well, last month, Sharon asked if she could refer me to someone, and of course I said “YES”!  Her intention was to connect me with a family who had a young, Bar Mitzvah-aged boy, without previous Hebrew education.  The Mom also had a Holocaust-survivor mother, who had been ailing, and wasn’t sure exactly how long she would have the privilege of enjoying time with, and wondered if there was anything that could be done to give her son a Bar Mitzvah in time for the grandmother to celebrate with him.

Normally, I would consider this a request for a drive-through service – an excuse to throw an audacious party, and would generally not oblige – but Audrey’s family was different.  Last night was proof.

There is no big party involved.  There is no other purpose- other than for Max to share his Bar Mitzvah with his Grandmother, and have the memory of a moving, Jewish experience, in spite of his lack of traditional Hebrew education.  This will be an interactive family experience, and Max will absolutely recite the Maftir blessings, write a D’Var Torah, and know clearly what it means to be a good Jew in the eyes of G-d.

Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting Max, Audrey, Rob, and Grandma.  It was 14 degrees outside their home, 75 outside mine.  I was sitting on my living room couch, they were sitting in their den.  We put our headsets on, dialed through Skype, and were connected in an instant.

But, that’s not the beautiful thing.

Max and I had an opportunity to share with each other, talk about what it meant to become a Bar Mitzvah, and get to know each other a little better.  He’s a precious, outgoing, happy young man, eager to have this special experience with his Grandmother.

I met Grandma, who couldn’t have been sweeter, herself.  She was so excited that we would all have this connection, and couldn’t wait to meet me.  The feeling is mutual. She is a Holocaust survivor, an Eastern European Jew, and a beautiful woman.  I cannot express how excited I am to be able to share this experience with her.

But that was not the beautiful part, either.

While we were on video chat, enjoying each other, Audrey and Rob brought out the Hanukkah Menorah, and 4 candles.  They placed the candles in the Menorah, Max lit the candles, and together we said the blessing over the Hanukkah lights.  Then, we sang Maoz Tzur, the Hebrew song titled Rock of Ages, and we truly shared an incredibly profound moment together, 1000 miles apart.

THAT was the beautiful thing.

I’ve never done this before, and I was moved beyond belief.  Words just cannot describe this experience, but the memory will last in my heart forever.  Technology is amazing.  It connects us in incredible ways, if we use it properly.  (That’s a whole other blog entry – I think it’s definitely overdone) But when it can be used to enhance our connection with people, to deepen our relationship by bringing personal moments together such as last night, when distance separates us, it is an amazing tool.  And, it changed my outlook on life, just a little…

I’m not sure what I’m more excited for – the actual Bar Mitzvah, or getting the chance to see Sharon and celebrate another simcha with her, and meet her family, but, I think the combination of the two is so exciting, I can hardly wait.  Max, I can’t wait to get to know you better, and share an incredibly meaningful simcha in your life, and your family’s lives.  Welcome to my world!  I’m so happy to be part of yours!

See you in Jersey!!

signature Cantor and Rabbi Debbi Ballard

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