My daughter will be turning 13 this spring, and her father and I are secretly planning her Bat Mitzvah party. Our religion and our culture are very important to us, and we wish to pass the importance of them onto our daughter; for this reason we are having her concentrate on the solemnity of the event and have her thinking there will be a light reception in the Temple hall after the ceremony. She has no idea that we have planned a large party for her and will be inviting all of her friends, as well as family who will be traveling a great distance to see her.
“Rachel” has attended several Bar and Bat Mitzvahs over the past few years and has seen the great lengths her friends’ parents have gone through to make these special events memorable – formal dances at a local ballroom; a small fair, complete with a midway and rides; a $100-a-plate dinner, to name a few. My husband and I have been very fortunate financially, and will be sparing no expense on Rachel’s party, however we do not want her to turn into a “princess”; for this reason, we have always worked to keep her humble and have not spoiled her.
Rachel is starting to ask what we will be doing for her Bat Mitzvah and throwing suggestions our way – renting a nightclub and hiring PaulyD. from Jersey Shore to DJ it; hosting a spa day for her and all of her guests; and other ideas that only a young teen would suggest. We have planned an evening of dinner and dancing aboard a cruise ship that will cruise to the local islands where the party will continue both on the yacht and the beach. Rachel knows nothing of this; we have told her that she should concentrate on learning her Hebrew for the big day and to leave the reception to us, her parents.
I guess we have done a good job of convincing Rachel that she will not be getting a huge party, because she has started to whine and complain about how we are “the worst parents ever” and how she will be “completely humiliated” in front of all her friends when all she gets is a reception in the Temple hall. When my husband threatened to take even that away if she did not behave, she tried cajoling us by telling us how all of her friends have invited her to huge parties and that it would be rude not to reciprocate. Knowing as we do, her pleas are falling upon deaf ears.
This week it got back to my husband, through one of his business contacts, that Rachel has been bragging to her friends that we will be throwing her the “biggest bash” anyone has ever seen, that we are pulling out all the stops to make it the most memorable party ever. Since Rachel knows none of the details, we had to assume she was bluffing but we asked her anyway. She told us we now had to throw her such a party in order to save face and avoid embarrassment.
Tazi, my husband is livid! He is considering cancelling Rachel’s party altogether and going through with the small reception in the Temple hall that we have told her she will be having. We have tried so hard to instill humility into our daughter, but I do not think humiliating her will be the way to go about doing it. Thus far I have been able to convince my husband to think about his decision, but the final date to cancel and still get our (sizable) deposits back is coming soon and I do not think he has changed his mind.
I know this sounds silly but…well, during the Middle Ages cats saved our people from the plague by eating the rats and mice that infected others. [Ed. Note: The Judaic people kept cats as house-pets, which was uncommon at the time considering that cats were associated with witches and their craft]. My husband has a special affinity for cats, and he loves your comments, always saying you are a “klug ketsle” which means “clever kitty” in Yiddish. Can you think of a better way to teach our daughter the humility we so seek for her, and the understanding that the most important part of her Bat Mitzvah is not the party that follows?
Thank you for the compliments and the faith you place in me to solve your problem! I will do my best to think of a solution that will work for everyone and save your daughter’s magnificent sounding party!
Rachel is at an age where young girls are becoming young women, and midst these changes come changes in attitudes. Girls take their insecurities out on each other, and constantly try to one-up each other to remain on top. It could be that Rachel’s friends were asking her what kind of party she will be having and she panicked. I would not be too hard on her – it can be very hard to remain humble when you are a teenage girl surrounded by angst; although she may not be acting humble on the outside, I am sure that your daughter is feeling plenty humbled on the inside.
Your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah is a huge event for both her and your family, so I suggest you make the celebration that follows about your faith and your family. At a wedding reception, the bride and groom spend an hour or two going to every table and thanking their guests for spending their special day with them, and spending a few minutes making each guest feel like a special part of the event; I suggest you have Rachel do the same at her party. This in and of itself will be an exercise in patience and humility, as well as a wonderful gesture to make your guests feel appreciated for attending, especially those who traveled a great distance to be there.
Although I am not Jewish, I am familiar with many of the traditions surrounding the faith, including tithing. I suggest you tell Rachel now that she will be donating 10% of her cash gifts received from her Bat Mitzvah. Tell her that she should start thinking about where she would like to donate it and why she has chosen that particular organization to receive her tithe. This can be a lesson in both humility, the traditions of your faith and the meanings behind the tithe. You could make this a part of her preparations for her Bat Mitzvah.
Leaving Rachel in the dark about whether or not she is going to have a large and splendid party – making her think that she will be having no party at all, in spite of her bragging – would be the road I would take. Once she realizes the pressure she is putting on you and her father is not working, she will probably start to do damage control among her friends as she tries to back away from her original statements – another lesson on the benefits of keeping a humble tongue in one’s keppelah.
Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.