Our oldest son became a bar mitzvah today (and happy birthday too to his twin sister!). Last night we made a seudas mitzvah for our family and friends and the celebrations continue, iy”H, tomorrow with his first aliyah, and on Shabbos when he will be leyning and our shul is kindly laying on a Kiddush for us.
We have been blessed with many wonderful friends and it was lovely last night to see so many of them, including people who had travelled to London specially for the occasion and others, who don’t live here, but happened to be here anyway and so were able to join us. It was a very happy evening, with a great atmosphere, enhanced by the lively presence of the barmitzvah boy’s friends; good food (even though I say so myself) and interesting speeches.
Our shul is in the process of rebuilding and we have known for some time that the hall in which we have made previous simchas was not going to be available for this one. What was unclear, really till erev Shabbos, was whether the new space, which will be the shul hall, would be ready in time. As the simcha drew closer, we were receiving regular, sometimes conflicting, progress reports, “yes it’ll be fine,” “it might be a bit tight” “not really sure it will be OK” and thinking of any possible alternative venue or simcha option. Probably the wildest of these was my idea to have a men-only seuda, in our house, with just first-degree female relatives, and then make a women-only chocolate and karaoke evening the next night, bringing our son in just to give his drasha. Fortunately this was not necessary, although it might be fun another time, and on Monday evening, while the builders were still putting down a temporary floor, with the help of some of our members, we were able to lay up for the seudah, in the new space.
The kitchen was another question. Having been assured that I would be able to cook in it on Tuesday, on Monday night, the builder said, “Well, the oven was working this morning, but it’s not working now! Don’t worry – I’ve got a man coming in the morning to fix it…” By 10am, when I had hoped to start cooking, there was no oven – my husband went up the road, knocking on neighbour’s doors and borrowing their hotplates so we could at least keep some food hot in the evening. However, by 12 noon, we had a working oven and I was able to cook in the beautiful new kitchen. This is last minute, even for me! However, we both learned a long time ago, that if you are able to keep calm in this kind of crisis, it is more likely to have a happy ending. I also put the lack of an oven, when you have to cook food for 130 people, into perspective – my friend’s baby was having a major operation yesterday – that’s something real to get worked up about.
Baruch Hashem, by the time we wanted to eat the food, everything was ready; the table plan was a bit random, but most people seemed to get on well with their neighbours; and most importantly, the bar mitzvah boy both spoke well and had a good time.
Part 2 to follow…