When I was 13, I started attending my friends bar and bat mitzvah celebrations and parties. The bar or bat mitzvah service would be in the morning, and typically, the party would be at night at some venue. Me and my family were not wealthy like a lot of my friends and so we didn’t have the coolest clothes. I remember one bat mitzvah party in particular – it was in the dead of winter in Canada and as the party was winding down at around midnight, my Dad came to pick me up. Only thing was, he was wearing this old, beaten up winter jacket that made me feel embarrassed. I felt that my friends would see it and think I was a loser or that we were poor – what can I say, this is what went through my 13 year old mind. I told my Dad as he came in to get me : “Dad, wait outside, I’ll come out to you”. He must have known my motivation for saying that as I could tell he was really hurt. He yelled at me: “I came out at midnight to pick you up and this is how you talk to me – this is how you treat me?!”. I felt embarrassed instantly and knew that I had done wrong. I knew that I had disrespected my father.
Years later, 30 years later, I still think about it. I apologized to my father at the time but haven’t brought it up since then – I probably should.
When I began teaching Bar and Bat Mitzvah lessons online to students, and teaching Jewish education, my goal was to teach much more than how to sing. My goal was to also teach students how to be kind, good and well rounded human beings. Students would learn with me how to create strong relationships with their family, friends and one day co-workers.
I am so thrilled that I have succeeded in my mission. Not only do I give students the confidence to sing their Torah portion proudly, I teach them life lessons including how to respect their parents. I don’t rely solely on the 5th of the Ten Commandments which says “Respect and Honor your Father and Mother”. You can’t demand that kids follow G-ds commandments and make them a part of their lives. There has to be meaning – there has to be buy in.
My students learn with me to be incredibly grateful to their parents for giving them life and providing them a home and food. Not everybody is lucky enough to have this. My students learn to show gratitude and appreciation to their parents and part of this is being respectful and kind.
I also teach my online bar and bat mitzvah students as part of their Jewish education to be kind to themselves! We have to give ourselves permission to make mistakes and not beat ourselves up over it. We will hurt the ones we love but we can apologize to make it right. We can learn to be better and grow as human beings.