Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Finding My Paradise at My Daughter's Bat Mitzvah

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."
- Mahatma Gandhi

This past weekend, we celebrated our daughter's bat mitzvah.  I am biased; of course, how can I not be.   However, after months of listening to her practicing and preparing, I was still unprepared for the magic that came with her public presentation and commitment.  After she lit up the Torah with the ease of her reading and comfort of chanting in front of 300 people, she gave a d'var torah that asked people to think at that moment and after they left the synagogue.  Focused on the Garden of Eden and the expulsion of Adam and Eve, she simply asked everyone, "What is your paradise and when you are forced to leave paradise, how do you bring it back to your every day life?"

Months before this, we met with Rabbi Yechiel Hoffman to offer us some inspiration for what her D'var Torah could be.  At that meeting, Maddy expressed some thoughts about how she visualized the day.  After their conversation, he asked to speak to my husband and me.  He asked, "What message do you want to deliver?"  This simple question hit us so hard (in a good way).  We had been so focused on our financial responsibilities that the spiritual "what" became a smaller priority.  This question refocused us quickly and from that moment, my husband and I knew that we would create celebration so that not only Maddy's name would be on it, but it would truly have a Tessel family imprint.

Perry and I said from the beginning that we didn't want to do what others did.  We wanted the service to be meaningful and personal and we hoped people would be comfortable to participate.  We also wanted the honors and aliyot to reflect who we are and our gratitude for our family, friendships and community.  As we reflected on the honors and discussed with our family and Rabbi Kligfeld, we made the decision to invite our family and friends who have had and continue to have an impact on our daughter and our family.

Friendship and community were the focus and theme of the bat mitzvah and I am so grateful to all the clergy and community of Temple Beth Am for giving us such an extraordinary experience.  Like a party, an experience is made by the people in attendance.  This is true for what occurred this weekend for Maddy's bat mitzvah.  Led by Maddy, in partnership with all who surrounded her, we were elevated.  We were surrounded by love and we knew it.

Again, as Mahatma Ghandi said, "Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."  And as for Maddy's question, this moment in our life will stay with me as one of my moments of paradise.

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