A Bat Mitzvah Message

I wanted to share with you the words I said to my daughter upon her becoming a bat mitzvah. I have not forgotten nor moved on from the situation in Nachlaot, and I hope to have updates in the future.

I learned something very powerful through the experience of making my daughter’s bat mitzvah; the fact that should be obvious, that she is “frum from birth”. Having chosen a life of Torah and mitzvot, this difference between us was never so apparent or relevant for me until the mitzvot became hers as well.

I am hoping to hear some comments and reactions to her choice to sing in front of women only; but that would mean you have to read through the whole thing. :  )

I hope you will find some meaning in it for you:

Welcome everyone. We are so happy that you could be here to celebrate this milestone in Michal’s life with us.

Michal is my daughter, my student, my friend, and definitely my teacher. Learning how to parent Michal has made me a better person, and I thank her so much for her patience while I learn! I am so grateful for the wisdom of Hakodesh Baruch, our holy Creator, in the matchmaking he does between children and parents.  She is my extraordinary gift, and my tremendous obligation and responsibility.

Michal chose the theme of butterflies for her bat mitzvah. If you look, you will notice them with the crafts, on the centerpieces, in her scrapbook and even in her hair.

I think it is so fitting that she chose this for her theme. Butterflies look delicate, but in order to fly, they actually must be very strong… just like someone I know.

 They also go through a metamorphosis. Since Michal decided at three years old she was going to be a herpetologist, she learned the concept of metamorphosis then.  Becoming a bat mitzvah is also a metamorphosis.

My wise father once told me that when he was asked if he was ready to become a grandfather, he answered that he would be ready the minute he became one. I believe this is the process we all go through at different stages in our lives. We can prepare as much as we like, but experiencing it is the only way we truly get there.

When a butterfly breaks out of its chrysalis it must work painfully hard. I was once taught that if one were to watch a butterfly during this excruciating work, one would be so inclined to have pity on the poor creature, and help crack it open, aiding their escape. If we did, however, we would be killing the butterfly. Only through the effort and perserverance, does the butterfly develop the wing strength to fly and survive.

So too as parents, it is sometimes hard to allow our children to break free themselves, and to develop the strength and tools that they need to fly.  Michal, you are developing so much strength, every day, and I will always – ALWAYS – be here to talk with, to help you, to love you. This immense metamorphosis into an adult member of G-d’s people is truly cause for celebration. It will not always be easy, and it will not always be fun. I cannot always remove the challenges. But you will never, ever be alone.

As most of you sitting here know, Michal has many gifts, and many talents.

Reb Zushe of Annipoli, who taught:

 “Our Sages have said, ‘Just as their faces are different, so too are their thoughts different’ (Brochos 58a). There exist on earth millions of people, and they all have the same basic features on their faces: two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. Nonetheless, no two people look alike. Similarly, if the outward appearances of people are so diverse, then how great must be the differences in their inner workings, the qualities of their souls, and their natures. If the beauty of the soul in all humans was identical, then why would Hashem need to create so many millions of people, where each one is no different from the next?

The secret is this: Each person is sent down to this world in order to fulfill a specific Divine task, to carry out on earth a lofty, heavenly purpose. This is the mission of human beings on earth; moreover, for as many people as Hashem sends down to earth, He has just as many different tasks and purposes. The work of one person is totally independent of the task of any other person, and each one must carry through and complete his or her given purpose. Therefore, Hashem endows each person with unique talents and attributes necessary for him to fulfill his task. These talents cry out within each person, demanding to be expressed and to fulfill the mission for which they were sent to this world.” 

When most people think of Michal, they immediately think of how much she loves to … read. But the secret is, it isn’t really the reading itself that she loves so much. Like a butterfly, Michal is flying off to other places and times. This journey into the imagination and sparking of her intellect while satisfying her adventurous spirit is the real reason she sits with books for hours.

But Michal also has a very special talent with young children. When she was born, I insisted we give her a middle name. This was to avoid her feeling jealous of the many other children we did not yet have, all of whom would have middle names. I chose Sarah, in the hopes that Hashem would bless us with many more children, and would also bless us with Michal becoming a “little matriarch” to help with the brood. And  I think Hashem listened. Michal’s ability to engage small children and to bring them into the world of imagination she so often flies off to is a gift I hope she will continue to cultivate. Michal, may it be one of the unique ways in which you serve Hashem throughout your lifetime.

Michal’s first name is after my grandfather, Michel, my mother’s father. He had the most wonderful gift of making each person, regardless of their age, religion, abilities or circumstance feel like a mensch. Connecting to people of different ages I believe is the greatest gift Michal has received from her namesake. The friendships Michal has forged with adults is partially due to her recognition of the extraordinary in other people, and partially an internalization of the commandment to love every fellow Jew. Michal, may you continue to excel in the mitzvah “v’ahavta l’reecha kamocha” and to be an ongoing aliyah (raising up) of your namesake great grandfather’s neshama (soul).

As only some of you know, Michal has another unique and special gift. That is the love of singing and music. Praise of Hashem through music is chronicled throughout Jewish history from the Torah until today. Michal has chosen as part of her gratitude to Hashem for bringing her to this day to sing a few songs, including some she has written herself.

Part of the process of becoming a bat mitzvah is a heightened awareness of gender separation and the role our femininity can play in our serving G-d.  For us, as Orthodox Jews, this means celebrating all that is within a woman’s realm, but recognizing the power within as well. Our laws of modesty are in place because of the immense power a woman can have on the focus of Klal Yisroel. For many, these laws of modesty include a woman singing alone.  This is why Michal will be singing for an exclusively female audience. 

When I am (finally) done speaking, we are going to kindly request that all of the males present with us today join my husband for a brief Mincha service. I am happy to explain this more one on one, but I would encourage all of them men to direct those questions to my husband at the end of Mincha, so he can field them instead of me!

Michal I bless you to always lean on those that love you, to always face that which confounds you with a commitment to learn and study more, to always love your yiddishkeit and Hashem as much as you do today, and that you always, always remain aware of the spark of Elohut –the special piece of Godliness – that exists within you, and that you connect to that Heavenly spark in order to fulfill the unique divine mission for which you were sent to this world.

 I love you.