This weekend family and friends gathered to witness our daughter Mataya’s bat mitzvah*, the symbolic transition from childhood to adulthood.
It was our fourth bat mitzvah in five years, and frankly, we’re glad we’re done. Anne and I make them major productions.
Anne has the hard part. She plans a party equal to a significant wedding and personally creates a musical montage of photos and videos chronicling the first 12 years of each child’s life.
My job is easier but still time intensive. I prepare a customized booklet including prayers, illustrations, quotes, and other readings, along with scores of pictures. This one was 32 pages.
It’s a lot of work and money, but it’s worth it.
I know Mataya, like most kids, undertook this huge challenge because we wanted her to (and for the ultimate pay-off of the party and presents). Still, no one who watched her impressive performance as she flawlessly chanted prayers and read portions of the Torah** in Hebrew, and then capped it off with an amazingly mature, gracious, funny, and insightful speech, could doubt the value of the process. And it was the same for our other three girls.
Equally important, our relationship with each child was strengthened as we reviewed and relived every precious stage of development from infancy to adolescence and remembered wonderful moments. But far more important, this intense focus revealed and heightened our appreciation for the uniqueness of each child and caused us to see, accept, and respect them for what they have already become and for what we know they will be – adults.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
* Traditionally, only males were permitted to read from the Torah. In 1922, Mordecai Kaplan, an American rabbi in New York and founder of a new denomination of Judaism called Reconstructionism, broke the 4,000 year-old tradition and held the first “bat mitzvah” ever (the male version of the ceremony is called a “bar mitzvah”) for his eldest daughter Judith. His innovation has now become common. Like my wife Anne and I, Rabbi Kaplan had four daughters.
** A Torah is a long parchment scroll containing the entire text of the Five Books of Moses hand-written by a scribe in the original Hebrew. It is rolled up around wooden shafts attached to either end of the scroll. These “books of Moses” – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy – are commonly referred to as the Old Testament in Christianity and comprise a part of the Holy Bible. Every Jewish temple, called a synagogue, has at least one Torah (many have several) stored in a special case called the Ark. Traditionally, each Torah is given royal treatment and is “dressed” in a velvet covering and silver or gold ornaments, including crowns or finials for the tops of the wooden shafts and breastplates. During every Jewish ceremony, the Torah is ritually taken from the Ark and opened so that portions may be read aloud to the congregation.