I was kicking my feet up, lazily counting the butterflies chasing each other in circles in my friend’s outdoor garden wonderland. “So, you’re making a bar mitzvah in two months – you must be in overdrive getting ready,” she remarked innocently.
“Nah, we’re already pros at doing this,” I told her. “There’s not that much to prepare, Baruch Hashem.” We continued to dip corn chips into the salsa her daughter had just made while the children played tag and jumped on the oversized trampoline.
I got home and reality hit: We were making a bar mitzvah in two months! What does that mean?! Besides the fact that our fourth son is becoming a man and will be taking on all of the mitzvos, of course.
Well, I had verbally spoken to the photographer, but had not given him a down payment. I decided I better get on it. The hall had already been booked. I had spoken to the caterer but never fully booked him. I decided that after tying up all the loose ends of the bar mitzvah prep I would focus on what’s really important in life: me looking beautiful! The time had come to search for a stunning gown for myself.
I immediately made an appointment with a seamstress in the area who rents out beautiful gowns. I tried on a few possibilities, and she took pictures of me to send to friends so they could give me their opinions. I tried on one dark green satin gown with little pastel flowers embroidered on it. The other was a dark purple lace. I really loved the dark green one as it brought out the green in my eyes and contrasted well with my dark brown sheitel. I figured this would save me hours of searching in Jerusalem for the perfect dress.
I sent my mother the pictures and she nixed both of them: “Too wintery for a summer bar mitzvah,” she declared. Too wintery, I thought – who cares? There will be air conditioning in the hall. Besides, I hate shopping, and the price was right, including all alterations and dry-cleaning to boot.
Then she dangled the bait in front of me: “If I pay for you to buy a gown, would that help?” Well, I guess a little bribery never hurt. If my mom was so generously offering to pay for my gown, who was I to say no? Plus, this was the first bar mitzvah that my parents weren’t going to be able to fly in for from the States. I decided in my great benevolence that having my mother purchase my dress would make her feel more involved in our simcha.
Good daughter that I am, I cleared my work schedule to spend a day shopping. I bee-lined to my favorite store in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Geulah, and I spent hours trying on every gown that they had: long and frilly, short and elegant. I ended up feeling dejected. Almost none of them looked good on me, and the only one that did look good cost a fortune (way beyond budget). Those gemach gowns were starting to seem really appealing, wintery and all. Who said I wanted to go shopping? When I was 20 and thin I loved shopping; now that I’m no longer 20 and no longer thin, I detest shopping!
I continued to amble my way aimlessly through Geulah. Hunger was starting to set in, and my legs were getting tired. Feeling dejected and worn out, I headed to the bagel shop and chose sushi for lunch. As I tried to balance the sushi rolls in between the provided chopsticks, I couldn’t help but think that there was no way I would find a dress. Nothing I had tried on the whole morning had fit properly. On the way back to the Central Bus Station, I got lost, as I often do, and found myself in the Center One Mall. I decided to check out some of the stores. Again, I couldn’t find a single dress that looked even remotely appropriate. What was I even thinking?
As I was running to catch the bus home I started berating myself for my easy distractibility and terrible time-management skills. Amidst my self-flagellation, I saw an absolutely stunning gown in a store window. I whispered a little prayer, “Hashem, you know how important this is to my mom. You know how much I hate shopping – please help this work out.” I stepped into the store and asked the lady if she had the dress in my size. She handed me the dress. I tried it on and it fit perfectly. I felt like a fairy princess. The periwinkle accented my tan skin; the sequins reflected off the lights in the store. It was half the price of all the other dresses I had tried on until now.
Maybe it’s too fancy, I thought. But I like to dress fancy for my sons’ bar mitzvahs. Maybe I should go to all the other stores in this area to see if this is the best option. But I don’t have time, remember? I have to get home to the kids. Just buy it – if I don’t I’m gonna regret it.
I pulled the cash out of an envelope, handed it over, and ran to catch the bus, tightly clasping my new purchase. As I sat on the bus in elation, I pondered the events of the day. I had gone shopping in the guise of doing the mitzvah of honoring my mother. But in reality, I was honoring myself. I’m going shopping. I’ve got to look great for my son’s simcha. I got lost. I mismanaged my time.
Where was Hashem in this picture? Even in the mundane activity of purchasing a dress, I had completely left Hashem out. Who caused me to get lost? Who put in my mind to go to Center One? Who put in my mind to go home through a circuitous route to catch my bus? Hashem put all of these ideas in my mind. Once I put Him into the picture, then presto – I found the most amazing dress. And by the way, once I put Hashem in the picture, the bar mitzvah was a truly holy affair and a beautiful event. Thank you, Hashem!