My husband and I still can’t believe we wondered whether to say yes to the parade.
The woman who helped us coordinate our son’s Bar Mitzvah in Israel this past summer went down a laundry list of possibilities—yes, a photographer would be lovely; no, we were bringing our own rabbi; yes, we need a Torah and it’s kind of nice you can rent them by the hour with no minimum; no chairs necessary, our tushies can sit on stone, although a couple of chairs might be nice, there is a grandmother who has bad knees; no need for yarmulkes, we bought some in Sefad several summers ago to match Josh’s tallis.
But when she asked about the parade, we didn’t know what to say. We certainly didn’t need one. But we were incredibly proud of our amazing son who certainly did deserve a parade among other things. We were also incredibly grateful to our many family and friends (over 40 people) who were schlepping all the way to the Holy Land to be with us. A parade was the least we could do to express our gratitude.
We were about to summon our inner Barbra Streisand and sing a resounding yes to the parade when our inner Jewish neuroses (overlapping but distinguishable from Babs) kicked in. Is it over the top and showy to have a parade outside Robinson’s Arch? It is part of the Western Wall. What will the natives think? We know they will already be judging our bare arms and crass American accents. What will our family and friends think? What if it is too loud? Too hot? Too crowded? Who will lead the parade? Will those in back feel marginalized? And where is the parade going anyway? Does a parade need a clear start and end point? Is there any justification for a parade before the ceremony if Josh hasn’t really done any Bar Mitzvahing yet?
But what if we say no and some other diaspora family rocks out their own parade? Will we feel jealous, competitive, resentful? Oy, like Barbra Streisand’s nail polish collection, the anxious questions seemed endless. Since Jacob and I have been inhaling Eckhart Tolle lately, we decided to ignore our ego doubting, and say yes to the parade. After all, we are incredibly proud of Josh (and admittedly slightly over the top and competitive).
In a summer and Israel trip filled with mind-blowing experiences, I can tell you that the parade was my absolute highlight. Two grinning musicians, dressed like shepherds from a second rate production of Joseph and Technicolor Dream Coat, met us at the bus. Our feet barely touched the ground as the shepherds used their drums, shofars, and blissed-out musical spirits to shepherd us to the entrance of Robinson’s Arch. I wish I could tell you what exactly happened during our parade. I am grateful we said yes to the photographer because it is all kind of a blur.
We marched and clapped and danced and sang and laughed and smiled. I don’t think anyone was cognizant of what anyone else was doing or thinking or feeling or judging. A minor miracle for my family and Jewish families everywhere. We were all just blissed out in a shared euphoria. Momentarily, we forgot where we were, what we were doing, why we were there, and even where we were going. It was parade for parade’s sake.
Our parade resumed after Josh’s inspiring service as the blissed-out drummers led us up the hill to his celebration lunch in the Old City. Arm in arm with Josh, I reveled in the music as much as his accomplishments, keenly aware that the cliché is absolutely correct. The “marvelous journey,” as poet Cavafy noted, is so much more important than the destination and above all, should not be “hurried.” It seemed moments ago that Josh was starting kindergarten and we were lining up his collection of Schleich elephants in a parade to wish him well and now he was venturing to the farther more daunting realm of 8th grade.
At the start of this new school year, as you set out for marvelous accomplishments and destinations of your own, I hope you take the time to take it all in. Don’t rush. And if anyone asks, say yes to the parade.