Shared Spirit: Resolving a Mitzvah Dilemma
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Shared Spirit: Resolving a Mitzvah Dilemma

It's not easy to balance the interests of two generations of sisters with two conflicting simchas.

Rachel Stein

Toco Hills resident Rachel Stein writes about spirituality and, working with readers, tries to help community members deal with dilemmas.

Recap: My daughter Randy planned the celebration of her bas mitzvah for a special Shabbos and Sunday party during winter break so her married sisters could come from out of town. But cousin Yisrael got engaged and set his wedding date for the same week.

The married sisters are close with Yisrael’s parents, Uncle Ira and Aunt Irene, and feel compelled to attend the wedding of their youngest child. They are unlikely to be able to participate in both occasions because of the expense and difficulty in traveling to two locations within a few days.

Where do their loyalties belong? As a mom, how do I handle this situation?


Be Honest, Then Step Back

Parenting adult, married kids is uniquely challenging. You have to step back and let them make their own decisions — and mistakes. In my opinion, your daughters belong with her sister on her special day.

I understand Uncle Ira and Aunt Irene have done a lot for them and have a close relationship, which is commendable and touching. However, surely they understand that a sibling’s needs come before a cousin’s.

Even if you want to rate a milestone and say a wedding tops a bas mitzvah, in Randy’s eyes, this is her shining moment. She deserves to have her family with her. Uncle Ira and Aunt Irene will be surrounded by their nuclear family, and as much as they want their nieces to join them, surely they will understand.

Be honest with your daughters about how this will affect Randy, and they will come to the right decision on their own.

— Another mom of adult kids


Divide and Conquer

I would tell the family, assuming they are agreeable, to divide. Some go to one simcha, and some to the other.

— Zhenia Greszes


Deal With Your Sister

This dilemma is not for your daughters to solve with their younger sister; it is for you and your close sister to resolve.

How could your sister allow her son to select this date? Why did you not confront her instead of putting all the burden on your daughters?

I am sure your youngest daughter has spent much longer than six weeks preparing for her bas mitzvah. Surely your nephew can spend a few weeks anticipating the joy of his slightly delayed union.

— An incensed reader


A Sisterly Compromise

Sometimes it takes years and maturity to understand life. When Randy gets older, she will realize that an intimate family wedding is too precious to forgo, especially because this is Uncle Ira and Aunt Irene’s youngest child.

If the married siblings attend the wedding, can they arrange a special celebration for Randy in a restaurant? Let the sisters make her feel like a princess and show how much they love her and how proud they are of her.

Randy will see their caring, even though she may struggle to understand their difficult choice. She will look back and remember how they banded together to celebrate with her. And in the end, even if there’s a remnant of pain, there will be a treasure-trove of love.

— G. Greenwald


Precedence for Sister

I agree with the adage “Keep the pocketbook open and the mouth closed” when dealing with adult and in-law kids. Even when they ask for advice, it’s best to throw it back in their court and avoid sounding didactic.

However, there is something else at stake here: a sister and her feelings. I believe it’s time for you to speak from the heart. Tread carefully: Don’t accuse, or you will lose credibility.

But be honest and tell your daughters that Randy is counting on them and that she scheduled her plans so they could come. Perhaps the sisters can divide and conquer so that there will be a showing at both occasions.

Can we truly measure one occasion as more important than another? To a baby, learning to crawl and walk and speak is momentous. To an older child, riding a bike or achieving a high grade is monumental. For a Jewish 12- or 13-year-old, a bar and bas mitzvah ushers the child into the Jewish people as full-fledged, responsible adult committed to G-d’s commandments. Can that occasion be considered secondary, even to a wedding?

I can imagine Randy looking back at pictures and feeling renewed pain each time she sees the empty spaces where her sisters should have been.

I advocate telling your married children that Randy needs them at this juncture. And then you’ve done your part. It is up to them to make their decision and to live with it.

Mazel tov on the bas mitzvah and the wedding.

— Lee Lewenberg

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