History of a Bat-Mitzvah

map of Sinai with arrows-WARNING: THIS IS NOT BASED ON YEARS OF SCHOLARLY RESEARCH, just a quick Photoshop drawing
WARNING: NOT BASED ON YEARS OF SCHOLARLY RESEARCH, just a quick drawing in Photoshop

Thirty three years ago I stood in my the hallway of the home I grew up in (it was a large, grand hall: wasted space, took up heat, but beautiful) and gave a speech. My father wrote the speech. I really don’t remember what the point of the speech was, but I do remember the first pasuk (sentence) of the speech, which is the first line of the upcoming parsha:
וַיְהִי, בְּשַׁלַּח פַּרְעֹה אֶת-הָעָם, וְלֹא-נָחָם אֱלֹהִים דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ פְּלִשְׁתִּים, כִּי קָרוֹב הוּא: כִּי אָמַר אֱלֹהִים, פֶּן-יִנָּחֵם הָעָם בִּרְאֹתָם מִלְחָמָה--וְשָׁבוּ מִצְרָיְמָה

And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not by the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said: 'Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt.'

So I remember bits and pieces of it. There was a dog, and a son, and a father. The drawing on the map probably was not part of the speech, but might have been if I had written the speech. So I would have an excuse to draw charts and pictures. The red line represents the route B’nei Yisrael (the Israelites, Children of Israel) most probably did take, so they would have a long time between slavery and being a nation in a land. The blue line is the more direct route, the one they didn’t take, which seems to go close to what is now Gaza or what was then the nation of the Philistines, a war-like people. In any case, they did meet Amalek at the end of the parsha, so they got involved in a battle, anyway.

So what was the story about the dog, the son, the father? I had to look it up. It’s from a Rashi towards the end of the parsha. It seems the father and son were going on a journey, and the son wanted to be held. So the father picked him up. Then the son wanted this. The father gave it to him. The son wanted that. Again, the father generously gave to his son. Along came another man, and the son asked, Do you know where my father is? The father got angry and put the son down. Along came a dog (Amalek) and bit him.

Now, if I could choose a topic now for my bat-mitzvah, I would have chosen Shirat HaYam, the song of the sea. Maybe next year I will study the beautiful poetry in this week’s parsha. Last year I wrote about Devorah. One thing I will have to say: even if I didn’t write the words to my bat-mitzvah speech, it was this speech that was my introduction to writing and giving divrei Torah, words of Torah. I enjoy it! So, thanks Dad (I actually used to call him Daddy, but now we call him Saba, grandfather) for helping me along this path.

batmitzvah    leora_age11

The photo on the left shows me conducting some kind of game at my bat-mitzvah. The photo on the right is from my brother’s bar-mitzvah one year earlier; I am sitting in the same location that I stood one year later to give my bat-mitzvah speech.

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10 thoughts on “History of a Bat-Mitzvah

  • Happy birthday!

    Were bat mitzvah celebrations common where you grew up? I don’t think any of my older female relatives had one, thus making me the first on both sides of our extended family.

    Have a great week.

  • I remember that Moshul

    I can understand why your father chose that d’var torah for you to say over. The message I get from it is to remember your parents who are helping you along, and to remember Hashem, that even if we don’t see him, He is carrying us.

    very nice pictures

    and its cute, because Beshalach was my twin brothers bar mitzvah parshah. And today was my Hebrew Birthday!

    and Happy Birthday again!

  • Mrs. S., I was originally going to add that to my post, about how my aunts didn’t have a bat-mitzvah; they just turned 12. And my father said he read the Torah for his bar-mitzvah, and they probably just had a little l’chaim for him. I had my bat-mitzvah at home; some of my nieces, on the other hand, had them in shul or in a school with catered food.

    The bat-mitzvah celebration is an American invention; the early famous one is of the daughter of Mordechai Kaplan, a YU graduate and the founder of the Reconstructionist movement. It has now moved into right wing Orthodox circles as well.

    Thanks, Jack.
    Jewish Side, thanks for helping me understand the mashal. I probably could have used your help and support back then, when I was 12, but you weren’t yet born!

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