“We See You And Honor Your Growth”

… Launching Tawonga’s Fourth B’nai Mitzvah Cohort

As I stood next to my fellow teachers, arms around each others’ shoulders in our matching green staff t-shirts, singing shehechiyanu with our community, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

We had just officially welcomed our 68 incoming students and their families to our fourth year of Tawonga’s Bar, Bat & B’nai Mitzvah Program with a soulful orientation at the beautiful Urban Adamah in Berkeley. (In total, 130 students will traverse this rite of passage with Tawonga this year.) And now, we were ending by giving gratitude for having reached this moment:

Blessed is the infinite source of all, who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this new season.

Earlier in the day, we asked families to sit together and on a piece of paper create a “Sacred Family Timeline.” They could plot any and all of the most meaningful moments in their lives. Many families marked births, marriages, and other B’nai Mitzvah ceremonies on their timeline, as well as more personal moments like the day parents met or the second they decided on the name for their child.

We ended the activity with a question:

Why begin this two year B’nai Mitzvah learning journey by marking all the moments that came before?

Of course there are lots of possible answers and reasons for this programmatic choice. But one – the one I’m drawn to from my kishkes (gut) – is that to live Jewishly means to honor time and celebrate life as its ultimate expression. Bear with me here.

Abraham Joshua Heschel writes in his seminal piece, “The Sabbath” that:

There is no quality that space has in common with the essence of G–d. There is not enough freedom on the top of the mountain; there is not enough glory in the silence of the sea. Yet the likeness of G–d can be found in time, which is eternity in disguise.

Now the word “G-d” doesn’t work for a lot of people. That is okay. Substitute what works for you, as no one word will ever work for everyone. Regardless of the exact language, the point remains: when we celebrate the growing-up of a child, we are noticing that child’s connection to the infinite – to the holiness of life itself.

Becoming Bar, Bat or B’nai Mitzvah is our tradition’s way of saying,

We see you, as you are entering a new season of life, and we honor your growth as something sacred.

It is sacred for the parents and grandparents, and even for us teachers and song leaders to witness the divine through the growth of a child.

I closed my eyes when we sang the shehechiyanu so I could guard this moment for myself, safe from all the fear on the news and in much of today’s rhetoric. As I had just experienced it, we were witnessing life – we were doing it! Living, wide awake!

Here were dozens of families, eager and curious to stand in awe of our tradition, hold each other close and mark a sacred moment.

So as we enter into our new Jewish year, 5780, and our fourth B’nai Mitzvah year, please join me in this blessing:

Blessed is the infinite source of all, who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this new season.

L’Shanah Tovah!

Learn More

Meg AdlerTo learn more about Tawonga’s Bar, Bat & B’nai Mitzvah Program, click here.

Meg is Tawonga’s amazing and talented Bar, Bat & B’nai Mitzvah Manager. She’s also a former Tawonga camper, staff member and supervisor. In 2018, Meg received a Masters of Religion from Yale Divinity School and in 2016, a certificate in Jewish Education for Adolescents and Emerging Adults through Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion. Read Meg’s Kveller article on how Torah can sharpen your mind here.

This program is supported by the San Francisco based Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund.