I rarely write about my personal life, however, this month I would like to share with you my and my family’s joy and happiness as my eldest daughter Amalyah will be called to the Torah and become a Bat Mitzvah, on the last Shabbat of January. She was also honorably called to the Torah yesterday morning at the Women of the Wall’s Rosh Hodesh service at the Kotel.
A daughters Bat Mitzvah, naturally, brings about many emotions, perhaps most apparent, pride. Pride as a father knowing all the effort she has put into this moment and pride as she claims her place among Am Yisrael. While I am always proud of our Movement’s work in egalitarian Jewish life cycle events, and in particular giving young girls a chance to have a Bat Mitzvah, this experience has allowed me to appreciate personally the opportunities that we are able to provide for thousands of other girls like my daughter. On this day, she should not feel that she is doing something out of the ordinary, or taboo. She should feel, just as a boy doing his Bar Mitzvah does, that she is part of a rich and holy tradition, and part of a people.
This month we will celebrate the holiday of Tu B’shevat, a celebration of nature, planting, and growth. When reflecting on Tu B’shevat and on my personal experience as the father of a soon to be Bat Mitzvah, I am reminded of the famous legend about Honi the circle maker –
“One day, he was walking along the road when he saw a certain man planting a carob tree. Ḥoni said to him: This tree, after how many years will it bear fruit? The man said to him: It will not produce fruit until seventy years have passed. Ḥoni said to him: Is it obvious to you that you will live seventy years that you expect to benefit from this tree? He said to him: That man himself found a world full of carob trees. Just as my ancestors planted for me, I too am planting for my descendants”.
(Bavli Taanit 23a)
May every Bat and Bar Mitzvah that we perform, every care-package that we give out, every new Kehilla that we build around Israel, every school that uses our progressive Jewish curriculum, and every conversion that we perform, be the seeds that flourish into a pluralistic and democratic Israel, for generations to come.
Rabbi Gilad Kariv