Special Ways of Saying Thank You

          Gratitude is one of the most important human emotions. As the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah day nears, it is time to contemplate how to most meaningfully thank those who have been on your Bar/Bat Mitzvah team

during this year of preparation and accomplishment. It helps to start a list early and to keep adding to it. When you stand before those gathered at your party in honor of your transition, take a moment to meet the eyes of those on your list. Let them sense the truth of your gratitude, and then simply state your truth in a loving and diplomatic way. You might go back to your B-Mitzvah mission statement, and then be able to say something like: 

          [Emotions] “Dear Family, Friends and Teachers: This has been a fantastic year for me. And now, here I am, today, so happy to be surrounded by all the most important people in my life. I thank every one of you for being here with me today. 

[Intellect/learning] I learned how to set goals in four dimensions – emotional, intellectual, spiritual and practical – and to accomplish them. I learned so much about how meaningful Judaism is for living and have become so proud to be a capable Jew.

          [Spiritual/Connections/Support] There are several people who have supported me throughout this process in particular. My parent(s) must come first. You had a vision that my bar mitzvah could be so much more than I’d ever been exposed to. I feared we would struggle a lot during this process, and instead we are closer than ever and I feel so appreciated and supported by you. I love you very much and feel very lucky to have such creative, caring parents.

          Now those present may not know that I had three bar mitzvah mentors. Would Hazzan (Cantor) Ben please rise. Hazzan you have been so patient with me as I learned the service and you taught me how to find a note and hold it – it turns out I really can have a good voice. I never knew that, you gave me such a gift with this knowledge. I will never forget you.

Would Erin please rise. I am a very fidgety student and learn best when I’m being physical. Erin has an acting background and she helped me to study my Torah portion by my becoming each of the characters and walking around acting out their parts and imagining missing lines.

Would Uncle Fred please rise. My Uncle Fred organized a men’s circle for me and we met every six weeks to talk about important things in life. We also had a camping trip together. Because of my mentors I never felt alone in this process and I also discovered a lot about myself and Judaism that I like and never new.

          Lots of small and special things have been included in this bar mitzvah because people took time out to do them. Tante Miriam, thank you for the fascinating centerpieces, Grandma Ellen, the kippot you crocheted look so great on everyone, cousins Arnold, Eli, and Kate – you did a mitzvah by making everyone feel welcome in the coatroom, at the gift table and the parking lot. And my sister Anna, I will never forget the night you reminded me that some stresses can be rejected, that I could just say no to doing one more passage and the world wouldn’t come to an end.

          And finally, I want to thank my Rabbi. It was so much fun to see you get excited about all the little extras we put into this bar mitzvah. Every time I saw your screen name in my email I knew you had an idea to share too or that you were just checking in on me in the nicest way. The Yehudah Amichai poem that everyone read at the service today was found by my rabbi and I think everyone experienced during the service how special you are.   

So thank you everyone – now let’s dance!”  

Each of the points expressed above could be easily incorporated into a thank-you note which you can well imagine will be treasured by the recipients!

Another step beyond thank yous is harvesting memories and acknowledging Changes

           It is Friday night, the week after the B-Mitzvah. Family and close friends are seated at the table about to bless the wine. A knock comes on the door. Ben and Sara’s mom call out: “Who is there?”

 “Why it is I, your son, Ben.”

“And I, your daughter Sarah who last week was a girl, but this Shabbat I arrive as a Jewish woman, to help lead the rituals of Shabbat.”

“And I, Ben, return a young Jewish man, also ready to help lead the rituals of Shabbat.”

All rise from their seats, the parents hurry to open the door. “Come in dearest ones. Come lead this family in the rituals of erev Shabbat.”

The above adaptation of a Sephardic ritual is one way of continuing the special quality of the B-Mitzvah season, honoring the transition and continuing to build your memories.

Too often the last step in a B-Mitzvah is the writing of thank you notes. With so much consciousness going into the planning, a conscious process for revisiting your experience is equally valuable.

·        Some families create a memory book from photos and other memorabilia that have been part of the journey and can help capture the experience.

·        This book can include a few photos along the path of growing up, of studies with tutors and mentors, of excursions to research aspects of the B-Mitzvah, paste-in the D’var Torah, blessings given and received, photos, brochures, pressed flowers, pieces of cards received and other memorabilia.

 ·        How will you organize your memory book? By the order of events? By special relationships? Or perhaps based upon your list of goals and objectives.

 ·        Have fun putting on finishing touches to your memory book. Stop by a craft supply store and pick up caption labels that are specially designed for animating photos. This way you can write the names of those in the photos for posterity and also add cute or memorable expressions to make the book more of a story than a gallery. You can use magazines for illustrations too – crop surprise and other facial emotions and pretty images for borders, clip and apply expressive words of many sizes.