This past Shabbat our fellow kibbutz-member-friends (who also made aliyah from the States and have 4 children) celebrated their son’s Bar Mitzvah.
When I entered the synagogue on Friday night for the Kabbalat Shabbat service (welcoming of the Sabbath), I was overcome with such joy and happiness for their family.
Looking around the room, I saw not only the celebration family all dressed up and excited for the upcoming milestone, but proud grandparents (on both sides), American siblings, uncles, aunts, and cousins who flew in for the occasion, and some of their Jerusalem friends who came to the kibbutz for Shabbat.
How lucky is this Bar Mitzvah boy, I thought to myself!
To be surrounded by so much love.
So much family!
And, then it hit me.
That moment where I go from gloriously being in the moment to getting stuck on something.
A nervous thought.
A disheartening thought.
A fearful thought.
What about us???
We’re the next ones in line to celebrate such a milestone in our community.
And, that’s when I think my heart skipped a beat.
Because I came face to face with the fact that none of my family will be here for our celebration.
Not my parents.
Or my siblings.
Or my grandmothers.
Or anyone else from America.
And, I got stuck on the 10th commandment.
Stuck on coveting my neighbors.
Stuck on being envious of what they have and what I don’t.
Stuck on worrying: “Who’s gonna show up to my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah?”
Noticing that I was stuck, I paused and allowed myself, in the midst of the festive Sabbath prayers, to feel my sense of sadness and pity and notice the disappointment and fear of embarrassment that was underneath it all.
And then I came to realize other perspectives of this situation.
- That it’s no one in my family’s “fault” other than mine that we live so far away. My husband and I made a choice to move to Israel being full aware of the price that we would pay for that. One of which is the physical distance from my family. And while I could be hopeful, I cannot expect any of them (for many reasons: jobs, cost, health, etc.) to just hop on a plane over to Israel for every family occasion we have, big or small.
- My husband’s Israeli family, albeit small, will be there and I am grateful for that.
- And, our outside of Hannaton friends and community friends will also be there.
- Which means, we won’t be celebrating in an empty synagogue.
Even more so, by looking at the glass half full, I recognized that:
- We’ve become part of a larger community on Kibbutz Hannaton over the past 5 years; a community which in many ways is like family.
- Many of the people who comprise this community are immigrants themselves. In fact, I’d say most of my closest friends here are American. And together, in celebration and sorrow, we gather together often: prayer services, community meals, festive holidays, birthdays, national holidays, and more.
- And, while this community can never, ever replace the family that I have and love, there are still meaningful ways that we can share in celebration together like a family would and like my daughter and I intend to do, in some creative fashion, before her Bat Mitzvah.
Getting stuck in this situation helped me realize that the 10th commandment does not only teach us to train ourselves to be truly happy for others, it helps us gain perspective on the good fortune that we do have and be grateful for that. For me, it’s the family that I do have (even if we don’t get to see each other so often), the fact that I am living a dream of raising my family in the Land of Israel, and the fact that on a daily basis, my family and I are (tfoo tfoo tfoo) genuinely happy exactly where we are and with everything what we have.