Seven years ago I had the honor of leading my family in prayer as we celebrated my niece's bat mitzvah. It was my first time leading services for my family, which was an incredibly meaningful experience for me. I had also never led a service by myself for such a large crowd; we were close to 150 people that Shabbat afternoon!
This morning I am once again presiding over a family simcha (joyous occasion) -- the bar mitzvah of that niece's little brother. This time around, a group of about 20 will be davening together in a more intimate setting -- the prayer space at the Bar El bed and breakfast in Tzfat. (This is where the Renewal-style minyan of Tzfat meets during the Days of Awe.)
We're borrowing a Torah scroll from my friend Reuven Goldfarb, who took my "Writing the psalms of our hearts" class at the ALEPH Kallah last summer. (I'm also borrowing a guitar through Reuven, which I deeply appreciate!) There will be song, prayer, poetry, and Torah aplenty.
It's always a joy to be a part of a young person's coming-of-age into a new stage of maturing Jewish identity, and the joy is increased when that young person is part of my own family.
For those who are interested, here's the siddur we created for the occasion: MaxSiddurFinal [pdf]. (The ones we'll be using this morning in Tzfat each have unique covers, featuring art courtesy of my niece; this is just the interior material.) It's a pretty simple weekday morning siddur, with some good poetry interwoven with the prayers -- I'm looking forward to using it.
Whether or not you are davening shacharit this morning, I hope you will think kindly of my family today as we celebrate this lifecycle milestone wtih joy!