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Bring It On!
Mom with a View

Bring It On!

When extravagance is called for.

by

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I need to be fair and honest. There is another side to the bat mitzvah extravagance story. While I still can't think of any justification for hiring the latest rapper or teenage heart throb, I can think of situations that may merit lavish celebrations, situations where the expression "Who am I to judge?" rings all too true.

Many years ago I heard Rabbi Berel Wein tell a story. He had attended one of these "event simchas," in this case a wedding, with Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetsky, the Torah luminary of the day. On their way out, Rabbi Wein made a mild though injudicious comment about the unnecessary expenditure.

Rabbi Kamenetsky then told him the host's biography. As I remember it, the father of the bride had endured the tragedy of the Holocaust, and his wife and children were murdered. He had come to America, remarried and started anew. He had become financially successful and built a new family.

"Tonight at his daughter's wedding," explained Rabbi Kamenetsky, "he got even with Hitler."

Was any celebration too grand?

And what about my friend whose son battled a childhood cancer? Each year at his birthday, she makes a meal of thanks. At every school play and presentation she is moved to tears. After such a struggle, will this young man not have a joyful bar mitzvah? Might they possibly celebrate in way that might otherwise be defined as "over the top"?

But their gratitude is also "over the top."

And then there's the couple I know who had to wait many years before they were blessed with children. For their daughter's bat mitzvah, the parents planned a very simple party.

"But mom," said the girl, "don't you want to thank everyone who supported you through those long, trying years?"

In each scenario, both parents and their children knew what they were celebrating, and why.

And so extravagant festivities were arranged instead for their daughter who had already achieved wisdom and maturity.

There is a unifying thread through these three stories that seems to make all the difference. In each scenario, as unique as they may be, both parents and their children knew what they were celebrating, and why.

It wasn't just an excuse for a big party, an event no different from a sweet sixteen.

It was an opportunity to say thank you -- to friends, to family, and most of all to the Almighty. Thank You God for bringing us to this day. Thank You for the triumph of good over evil, health over sickness, fertility over barrenness. Thank You for caring for us. Thank You for caring for Your people. Thank you for the renewed opportunities to celebrate.

Bring it on!

Published: December 24, 2005


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Visitor Comments: 5

(5) Anonymous, January 9, 2006 12:00 AM

Extravagance required

We are created in the image of the Living G-d. Hashem did not limit His extravagance in His creation; its beauty, symmetry, variety, the wonderful sounds of nature, the displays of power in a thunderstorm or the hot summer sun. Think about the intricacy and lavish richness of the tabernacle that He gave Moshe specific instructions on how He wanted it built, how the Kohadim serving in the temple were to dress and behave while serving and in their personal lives off duty. Read again about the vast riches and fine materials Kings David and Solomon set aside and then used to build a beautiful Temple for His presence to meet with us on this earth. Notice how much manpower, time and distance were involved in collecting, storing, and erecting the Temple. No expense was spared in either His creation or what He directed man to build for His honor and worship. He endued each of us as people with parts of His own nature; His creativity, imagination, musical abilities, business and organizational skills, nuturing nature, sense of humor, profound intuitiveness, intelligence, determination, kindness, gentleness, joy and laughter, deep empathy, and fierce devotion to what is right and true - just to high-light a few aspects of what in us reflects a little of all that is in Him. Why then, should we not be extravagant in our expressions of celebration at the miracles He still provides in our lives? A daughters wedding isn't just a wedding after all that father who survived the holocaust endured. A birthday or a child's play aren't just 'another little milestone event'either. They are celebrations of joy that the precious life of their son is still with them. Death was cheated and the victory is worth an extravagant celebration of his life and in thankfulness to the Almighty G-d who healed Him and gave the family a longer time together. Everything and every process that occurs in the natural realm is a picture of what is and what happens in the spiritual realm beyond our physical sight. He commanded our ancestors to celebrate, eat wonderful food, and give gifts to one another for a whole week on some occasions. We usually confine our celebrations today to one day. So take directions seriously, follow His example and make your celebration one that expresses the same joy, extravagance, and majesty that He put into His creation and each of us. Get as lavish as your budget will comfortably allow you to. Celebrate as a way to honor and worship His supreme Awesomeness over all that is and ever will be. With a heart full of gratefulness and thanksgiving for all He has given to and done for us, give the Great G-d of all Creation back a little of what is due Him, just because of Who He is.

(4) Anonymous, January 2, 2006 12:00 AM

It was very thought provoking…

(3) Yitzchok, December 28, 2005 12:00 AM

From US(?) fortunates

A thought from those of us whose life is almost picture perfect with only small ripples. Isn't it appropriate to thank G-d for this 'perfect' life with no fear of childlessness, sickness or evil. It's not just thanking Him for one thing, but for giving US a 'worriless, free' life. WE should throw even a greater party than those in your examples. WE should really 'BRING IT ON" in capitals for having children, knowing no evil or sickness. If G-d felt that to US the little ripples are what to others is a tsunami, for that WE too should celebrate. With this we can continue the never-ending spiral of expensive affairs. There's a wonderful article on Aish 'Bat Mitzvah Hoopla' that puts it this way. "The joy that comes from discovering your place in the world, the joy that comes from recognizing you are part of a special people with unique responsibilities, and stepping up to the plate to accept them. This is a joy that has no price tag. But it's a joy that can only be earned, not bought." We all have a case for hakoras hatov and to express it via lavishness does not translate to the expressing 'both parents and their children knew what they were celebrating, and why". This should be the motto; that the children and those sharing in the Simcha understand the why. Bring on the spiritual leave behind the extravagance!

(2) Debra Monasch, December 27, 2005 12:00 AM

A Blessing

I think there are times in our lives, rites of passage, for instance, that merit a celebration. Singing. Dancing. I don't care to the tune of what dollar, but to the tune of the joy.

Baruch ata Hashem elohenu melech ha olam, shehecheyanu, v'kiyimanu, v'higiyanu laz'man hazeh.

So, yes, bring it on!

(1) Denise, December 25, 2005 12:00 AM

I agree with Emuna here

While I loathe ostentation, I have to admit that sometimes spending more than one normally would have is a way of celebrating what G-d has blessed us with. I did that with my son's barmitzvah and have no regrets. It was a way of saying a) thank you for the child we thought we would never have and b) thank you for bringing us through great suffering to a day when we can celebrate so fully.

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