I’m fond of saying that when my kids (presently ages 7, 5 and 19 months) have their Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, they are going to be lucky to get a pizza party in our basement. Maybe we’ll rent them a karaoke machine.
Self depricating jokes aside, the fact that we won’t be hosting lavish affairs says as much about our finances as it does about our priorities.
It’s like our take on Chanukah gifts — although on a much bigger scale, obviously. We don’t “go crazy” because it’s (definitely) not in the budget; but we also don’t go crazy because it’s not compatible with our priorities — and with the values we want to impart to our children.
If we host a $30,000 affair for our son’s bar mitvzah, what’s he going to expect for his wedding? What’s he going to think about our priorities?
Let’s pretend we make $1,000,000 a year. Would a $50,000 Bar or Bat Mitzvah be appropriate?
Well, we’d be able to pay cash for it – so, there’s that. But just because we could afford it, wouldn’t make it right (for us). It would still be out of sync with our overall values of modesty and frugality.
Maybe I’m naive (and you all can feel free to tell me so in the comments section!), but to me, a modest luncheon at shul and a laid-back malevah malka at our home seems not only frugal, but really quite lovely! It is befitting the occasion, and it’s completely in tandem with our values and our personality.
It quietly says to our sons,
Becoming a man among Jewish men shouldn’t require your parents to take out a second mortgage. It shouldn’t demand that they rack up credit card debt.
Your Bar Mitzvah is about the yoke of commandments – not the yoke of consumption.
So, no, Mommy and Daddy won’t stop funding their retirement to pay for your Bar Mitzvah party. And trust us, when we don’t have to move in with you in 20 years, you’ll be very glad we didn’t!
And least that’s what I hope it will say.
Tell me: What do want your Bar and Bat Mitzvah plans – past, present or future – to say? How have you finessed — or do you plan to finesse – the financials of this important simcha?
Have you bucked communal conventions in favor of frugality and modesty? Have you – or your kids – regretted your decision? I’m eager to hear what you have to say!