Today was probably a normal day for most of you. For us… it was the official beginning of a huge event in our lives… Temera’s bat mitzvah. This morning she had her first tutoring session in preparation for her January bat mitzvah. Okay, now I KNOW you’ve all heard of it… but I’m also pretty sure some of you are saying, “Tell me again what a bat mitzvah is?” Okay, I’ll tell you.
Mitzvah is a Jewish word meaning “commandment”. Boys have “bar” mitzvahs and girls have “bat” mitzvahs. Bar meaning son and bat meaning daughter. When a child turns 13, they are considered an adult in Jewish law. Now I think we can all agree that there is no way a 13 year old child is an adult in any sense of the word… but religiously, she is. She is now responsible for her actions and her thoughts and traditionally has the same rights as any other adult would have. So, having a bar or bat mitzvah is kind of a huge deal in Judaism.
I never had one, however. Why? Well, there are a ton of reasons but when I went to an orthodox Hebrew School, there was definitely a priority for the boys to learn torah and study for their bar mitzvahs. Girls weren’t allowed to read from the torah so my only option would have been to have a Friday evening service (instead of a Saturday morning one) and say some other prayers and such. It was not encouraged by my Rabbi/Teacher so I kind of got bored with class early on and refused to continue. End of story.
Except that it wasn’t. I was okay with my decision to not have a bat mitzvah for years… and then I had children. Daughters. 3 of them. I was instantly stricken with the desire for them to all read torah and become a bat mitzah. I also was wrestling with my feelings that because I never had one, how could I ethically (in my own mind) steer them in that direction when I had followed down such a different path? I decided I just couldn’t encourage my daughters to study when I hadn’t done it myself. At 40 years old, I had a bat mitzvah.
So the fact that Temera is now studying for hers has a whole different meaning to me. I can stand up with her proudly, knowing she is following in the footsteps of the women of our family. (My mother had HER bat mitzvah as an adult as well.)
She is nervous. Understandably. Learning a new language isn’t easy and she will have the eyes of friends and family and God upon her, listening to her chant her torah portion and sing her prayers. Okay… I’m getting a little verklempt.
I cringe at the thought of the invitations, the banquet hall, the catering, the programs and decorations. I know… it’s all fluff. Except it isn’t. It’s all part of the package of celebration that this day will bring. Temera has her work cut out for her. I do to. This day will be one she will always remember. I want her to shine… and she will. Because she always does.