I recently met with Jenna Pepperman, my former college intern and a communications major from the University of Rhode Island. As I was telling her about the theme for this column, she immediately said, “I can speak to being a Bat Mitzvah.” Jenna, now 21, talked about how she feels connected to Judaism in such a deep way since her Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12.
She said, “I did not understand the true meaning of my Bat Mitzvah at the time although I knew it was important. It wasn’t until I went to Israel two summers ago that I felt the true impact and deep connection to Judaism. Visiting the Western Wall, learning about the Jewish history and meeting the Israeli soldiers reinforced how important it is to keep the tradition going.”
She added, “I have a twin sister, and she feels the same way I do. Having that identity will stay with me forever.”
I asked Jenna what she loved about being Jewish and Judaism and she said, “I love the people and of course the food. But I also love the history and how we made it through the Holocaust.”
I feel this aptly expresses the sentiments of connection to the Torah, our history, Jewish identity and our people as a whole.
The article “Significance of the Bar & Bat Mitzvah,” found on the website of Chabad of Port Washington (chbadpw.org) states, “When a child reaches to the age of Bat & Bar Mitzvah, she/he assumes a greater maturity in her/his connection to Torah and Mitzvot, to her/his own Jewish identity, to the Jewish people as a whole, and to God. … Our sages teach that at the age of 13 young men and women are endowed with a greater capacity for both seeking to do good and seeking selfish pursuits.
This age marks the young adult’s arrival at the crossroads of moral and spiritual decision-making that is engaged in by mature adults.”
As I look at my generation and my age, I think of how this impacts me as an early baby boomer. Aron Moss summarizes it well. In “Entering Adulthood – the Bar and Bat Mitzvah,” at Chabad.org, he writes, “With maturity comes the ability to sense subtlety and nuance. Our minds expand to be able to appreciate that even though something seems painful, there is a deeper good. And the things that feel good are not always good for us. … From now on we can also see things through the eyes of our deeper self – our soul. Then the choice is ours – to continue to live superficially or to develop our spiritual awareness.”
All of this speaks to me because my Judaism has deepened over the years. My spiritual awareness and desire to live life from a deeper place, with Jewish tenants and principles, have enlightened and lifted me up through both the tough and the joyous times.
PATRICIA RASKIN hosts “The Patricia Raskin Show” on Saturdays at 3 p.m. on WPRO, 630 AM/99.7 FM and on Mondays at 2 p.m. on voiceamerica.com. Raskin is a board member of Providence’s Temple Emanu-El.