Bar Mitzvah Amid Corona

by Ayala Shalmayev

Celebrating even important spiritual milestones looks a little different under pandemic regulations

| Topics: Coronavirus, Bar Mitzvah
Bar Mitzvah under Corona regulations
Photo: Gershon Elinson/Flash90

I still can’t believe that our son Yoav just celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. Since this happened amid ongoing coronavirus regulations (indoor gatherings are limited to just 10 people, outdoors to 20) we spread the Bar Mitzvah proceedings out over three separate days.

Two weeks ago, on his actual birthday, we invited Yoav’s friends over for a party. A week later, last Thursday, we celebrated his Aliyah L’Torah (עליה לתורה) in the local synagogue. This is arguably the most exciting part of the Bar Mitzvah. It is the first time that the young man in question reads publicly from the Torah, and he spends weeks beforehand practicing with a rabbi just how to recite the weekly Torah portion.

We were a little sad that my family from Switzerland couldn’t be here for this special occasion. They wanted so badly to come and celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime event with us. And just one day before, my sister, who also lives here in Israel, got a call from the Ministry of Health that her two sons must enter quarantine after they apparently rode a school bus with another child who later tested positive for COVID-19. It was quite a blow that not even all of my family living here in Israel could be with us.

But we promised ourselves that nothing would take away from the joy of this important biblical event in our son’s life!

The ceremony in the synagogue on Thursday was very touching and we couldn’t always hold back our tears. My brother-in-law called my parents via WhatsApp video so that they could at least be there virtually.

On Friday, we all went to Jerusalem to visit the Western Wall. And on Saturday we celebrated the so-called Shabbat Chatan (שבת חתן). Unlike the Orthodox, we did not go to the synagogue again, but just celebrated at home. Thankfully, the weather has been perfect for outdoor celebrations in our garden. Friends and neighbors also joined to help us mark our son, Yoav, reaching the age of spiritual maturity according to the Jewish faith.

There are some things not even Corona can take away from us.

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