Bat Mitzvah on Masada
It's always a proud moment when the student achieves becoming a Bat/Bar Mitzvah. The preparation is a long process. To the student is seems overwhelming and almost hopeless. There's so much to learn. It begins with learning the Hebrew alef-bet (alphabet) and progresses to reading words, phrases, sentences, blessings, prayers and finally the Torah portion, the part of the Torah that the student will read on the big day. The Torah portion this week was Korach.
Another aspect is the Dvar Torah. The student is required to study the portion in depth to acquire a comprehensive understanding of it to then teach it to the congregants. This includes connecting the dots between the ancient and modern - what connections does the student make between his/her life, what is important in his/her eyes, what lessons can be learned... what is the relevance of the Torah portion to the students life today?
I like to compare the student's experience in today's modern world to the role of Moshe (Moses) our greatest prophet and teacher. Moshe was known to have had a personal and direct relationship with G-D. This is something the student is now exploring; what are his/her beliefs and relationships in general and to G-D in particular?
After Moshe followed G-D's instructions in successfully freeing the Israelites from Egyptian slavery (the Exodus story) he continued to lead them while living decades in the desert. It was there that G-D instructed Moshe on how to set up a nation that would include a civil and spiritual system that worked beautifully in tandem. This is regarded as the continued process that started with G-d's covenant with Abraham, Sarah and their progeny that they will receive the land promised by G-D (take a look at what was actually promised!!!) which we now know as Israel. It's a loooooong story. There are some very exciting accounts in the Tanach (Torah, Prophets, Writings aka Bible aka Old Testament) that are well worth the read and continued study! I highly recommend it.
**Note: I've pointed you to links online that I feel are relevant. However, you may make your own search for more!
I could go on forever regarding Torah and the study of it. It's one of my favorite topics. However, I will save that for another time.
When tutoring I get to personally witness the students' growth as s/he matures from a young child to a young adult. As the students come to embrace their studies they begin to see new perspectives about the world they live in. They grow from simple children with few responsibilities to young adults now taking on responsibilities as independent individuals living within a larger community. The study of Torah inspires critical, expansive and profound thought. We encourage coontinued Torah observance and study at some level as they move into adulthood. The Torah offers excellent insights, examples and instructions on how to manoeuver in this great journey called life.
This Bat Mitzvah event was particularly inspiring. Skylar studied long and hard to accomplish the task and blossomed as a person over the months. The Bat Mitzvah service was held in Israel on the top of Masada. The location has a fabulous, interesting and important history. Please take the time to read about it!
I didn't know what to expect. This was actually my first time on top of Masada and the first event of this kind that I would participate in. The location seemed to actually inspire a realistic glimpse into our Torah and Tanach. Seeing the region where the biblical accounts are described provides a richness to understanding these events that took place thousands of years prior. Everything becomes more relevant and makes more sense.
We know from the Torah that the Israelites were not a very happy bunch. They complained often to Moshe. They didn't like their desert freedom and wanted to return to Egypt even if they had to live in servitude. They accused Moshe of leading them to an inevitable death in the desert wasteland. Their faith in G-D was weak and they succeeded often in causing much trouble to the budding nation. No doubt they would never have imagined that thousands of years in the future the Jewish nation would survive and thrive as we are today!
On this day I experienced many firsts; my first time on Masada, my first time at an event on the site and my first time taking on the role of Gabbai; the one who assists in the reading of the Torah. Why is there a need for an assistant, you might ask? The Torah scroll is written in Hebrew without vowels or any punctuation. In order to properly read it one usually studies the selected portion beforehand from a source that includes vowels and punctuation. The student will read directly from the scroll. The Gabbai reads from the punctuated source. Should any word be mispronounced the Gabbai will quietly correct the reader to be sure the text is recited accurately so as to be understood correctly by the congregants.
Included in this particular ceremony was a blessing on receiving a Hebrew name. My student had not received a Hebrew name at birth. This meant she could take a name of her own choice! Prior to the service we did some research. What was the meaning of her English name, Skylar? We learned that it meant: strength, love and beauty, eternal life and water giver. This left us with quite a few options for a Hebrew name. We researched and discussed the possibilities. In the end Skylar chose the name Tiferet which literally means "beauty" or "glory". However there is more to it then meets the eye, According to Kabbalah it seems to mediate between chesed (kindness) and gevurah (strength). I'll let you read up on it yourself. In any case the name seemed perfectly fitting for this amazing young woman. You can see the joy in my face in the photo below as she received her new Hebrew name.
Mazel tov to Tiferet Sky, her family, friends and to Judaism!
I hope you've enjoyed the event!
PS - I am available for Hebrew, Jewish studies and tutoring. References provided!