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Bat Mitzvah of Elizabeth Gould
Bar Mitzvah of Benjamin Gould
December 22, 2001

Photos B'nai Mitzvah Pictures
Beth reads the blessings after the Torah
Ben reads from the Torah

We were planning on going to Israel this winter so the kids could have their B'nai Mitzvah in Israel. However, the Middle East situation being what it is, we decided to cancel (or postpone) our trip. Fortunately, our temple had no problem accommodating us at the last minute, so on December 22nd, Beth and Ben were called to the Torah for their first time as adults in the Jewish community.

Both the guest list and affair were small. The service featured a few of our friends (those that Beth and Ben let us invite) and some of our relatives from the Boston area. Grandma Judy flew in from Boulder, and Grandma Donna, Dr. Larry, and the Courtneys flew in from Kansas City. After the service and kiddish, we all went back to our house for lunch, catered by Daphne.

The kids with their Grandmas

The kids had been practicing their Torah portion, the blessings and many of the songs since September, studying with their tutor, Malka Romanoff. However, they were not the only ones who prepared for the big day. Daphne spent much of December trying out recipes and preparing food for the lunch after the service. There was also considerable anxiety over those relatives who were honored with aliyahs, since they would have to chant the blessings before and after the Torah without the benefit of four months of practice with a tutor.

The ceremony took place at Temple Shir Tikvah in Winchester and was officiated by Rabbi Rim Meirowitz with the musical accompaniment of Beth Levin. Both Beth and Ben read directly from the Torah in three sections, each. The following people were honored with aliyahs:

  • Joel and Daphne Gould
  • Karen Courtney, Beth and Ben's aunt
  • Elizabeth Gould, herself
  • Donna Gould Cohen, Beth and Ben's grandmother, with her husband, Lawrence Cohen
  • Charlotte and Bernie Labbit, Beth and Ben's cousins.
  • Benjamin Gould, himself

About the pictures. Photography during the service was challenging. We wanted to avoid using the flash and we did not want a wandering photographer to interrupt the service. Therefore, we set up our digital camera to one side and asked out friend, C---- Meeks, to take pictures during the service. Because of the lack of a flash, I set the ISO of the digital camera to 200. The unfortunate side effect of this, however, is that the pictures are a little grainy, especially when blown up. This includes the pictures I took later, at our house, because I forgot to reset the camera settings (sorry).

In addition to our camera, Howie - a cousin, offered to make a video tape of the ceremony, which we gladly accepted. Thanks Howie.

Beth's Commentary on Her Torah Portion

Saying the blessing over the Challah
Jacob, after living in Egypt for a while, got ready to die. He asked his son, Joseph, to bury him with his parents. This doesn't seem unreasonable. He obviously thinks he should be buried the other religious leaders rather than the Egyptians. He wants to be with his parents rather than strangers with a different religion.

Joseph meets with his father after this meeting because his father is ill. This is reasonable. People should be with people who are sick to comfort them like that.

I think that this part of the Torah teaches us to visit elders and do what they want. Jacob wanted to be buried with his fathers, and Joseph agreed to do this. Joseph also visited his father when his father was very sick. This is a fine thing to teach us. It is very important to make sure what is supposed to happen happens. It is also nice to help out a dying person, and bury them where they want to be buried. There shouldn't be any reason why you can't bury a person where they want to be buried. They also might want to talk about something they need you to do for some reason. Basically if you can do what the person who is dying asks you to you should, because it is not really the actual person that matters as much as their contributions to their group or humanity, and they might need someone to finish their work.

This portion said that Jacob was 147 years old. That doesn't make any sense. People nowadays don't live that long and people in the past had shorter lives than we do today. I don't see how a person could have lived that long.

I think this tells us that God keeps his followers alive as long as necessary. I don't see why this matters, but it would explain why he lived so long. He seems to also be able to predict when he is going to die reasonably well. He seemed to expect to die soon before he got sick. He was obviously an important person.

Ben's Commentary on His Torah Portion

Ben getting pelted with candy
My torah portion is on the conversation before Jacob dies, when Jacob tells his son, Joseph, that he will make Joseph's two son Ephraim and Manasseh his own. During my portion, Jacob explains why he wants to adopt his two grandchildren as his sons. He says, "I do this because, when I was returning from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, while I was journeying in the land of Canaan, when still some distance short of Ephrath; and I buried her there on the road to Ephrath." I see no connection between Rachel dieing and Jacob adopting his grandchildren, and I'm willing to say further that the two have exactly zero things in common.

Yet when I thought hard, I saw a connection between Rachel's death and Jacob's action. Rachel was Jacob's favorite wife, and Rachel's only children, Joseph and Benjamin, are Jacob's favorite sons. If Jacob took Joseph's two sons, it would be like having four sons from his wife Rachel. When Rachel died, Jacob couldn't have any more sons that were from Rachel, so in my portion he gets two more from Rachel's line. Or, as I noticed, it could be looked at in a different way. If Jacob loved Rachel so much, having four from her line as his sons might make him closer to Rachel. In those two ways, a connection forms between Jacob's action and his explanation.

This is a very good example of favoritism in the family. Favoritism like this is very natural, and most likely every family in the world has it, I'm sure anyone has at least a favorite child or a favorite parent, or grandparent, or grandchild, or cousin, or aunt, or uncle. I think favoritism like this is neither right nor wrong, and how ever many people cry from it, I still will think that.

This web page (http://www.gouldhome.com/B'naiMitzvah.html) was last updated on December 22, 2001. For any comments or suggestions about the site contact Daphne Gould. Contents copyright © 1999-2003 by Joel and Daphne Gould.