Simcha Dilemma: Bas Mitzvah or Wedding?
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Simcha Dilemma: Bas Mitzvah or Wedding?

Does family loyalty lie with a sister or cousins when the celebrations conflict?

Rachel Stein

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

Randy, my baby, has anticipated her big day for months.

She selected her color scheme of pink and gold and planned an art project and a lively, interactive game. We went shopping and found her a flattering dress, bought special invitations, and plans for a gala bas mitzvah celebration were falling into place.

The only other thing Randy wanted to make her special occasion complete was for her older, married siblings, living out of town, to join in the festivities.

“Can you come?” Randy asked each sister.

“How about if you plan the party during our winter break?” they suggested. “Then we should be able to make it, assuming we can find a good flight.”

That’s what Randy did. Then she sat back, waited and hoped.

Meanwhile, something else was brewing in the family. My nephew, Randy’s first cousin, started dating seriously. Within a breathless six weeks, Yisrael went from a single guy to a radiant chosson eagerly anticipating his wedding.

The wedding date was set for Tuesday night of the week of Randy’s bas mitzvah.

Well, I told myself, this can be done. You just have to be super-organized.

A woman on a mission, I began the task of cooking and filling my freezer. We would come home from the wedding on Thursday and zoom into a busy Shabbos (with some out-of-town family) and her party on Sunday.

Yisrael is the youngest son of my only sister, Irene. Not only are Irene and I incredibly close, but she and her husband, Ira, have made it their business to be a wonderful aunt and uncle to my children.

Ira and Irene often have my young marrieds over because they live within driving distance of each other and have forged an intimate bond. Now Irene, emotionally fragile as she plans for her baby’s marriage and ensuing empty nest, has made it clear that she hopes her nieces and nephews will join them for this momentous occasion, Randy’s bas mitzvah notwithstanding.

Now the sisters face a dilemma. How can they not go to the wedding? But if they attend the wedding, they’re unlikely to be able to travel again for Randy’s party, especially because each is blessed with young children.

What to do? A cousin’s wedding or a sister’s bas mitzvah?

“A wedding takes precedence over a bas mitzvah,” the sisters reasoned. “Randy will understand.”

But when I peered into Randy’s green eyes, I saw pain and resignation. Randy didn’t want to sway her sisters with pleading. With her almost-12-year-old dignity, she felt it was important that they want to share her big day, not that they feel compelled or guilty.

As a mother, I am conflicted. I am not the type of parent who relishes giving advice, especially to adult children, unless they ask me. Even then, I often turn the question back to them to find their own resolution.

Shouldn’t they know, however, that by not coming for Randy, they are causing her pain?

“Randy is just having a kids’ party,” my oldest daughter, Rena, said. “She thinks she wants us there, but in the scheme of things, she’ll be busy with her friends.”

“And it’s the last wedding for Uncle Ira and Aunt Irene,” my next daughter, Cheryl, said. “It’s so important to her that we come.”

“I know we told Randy we would try to make it,” Bev, third in line, said. “But that was before the wedding came up.”

“I understand what you’re saying,” I said, “and I support whatever decision you choose to make. But don’t forget: Randy did plan her party around your winter vacation after speaking with you in the hope that you would attend — before Yisrael was even dating. And even if you won’t spend time with her during the actual party, there is the Shabbos before and just the feeling of being surrounded by family that means so much.”

Perhaps there’s no easy answer to this dilemma. Where do the sisters belong — with their aunt and uncle or their sister?

Send replies for publication to And may we all have such wonderful dilemmas of debating which simcha to attend.

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