Advice for Jewish Adulthood

Regarding the shower knob in hotels, whichever way you turn it is wrong.
A half a bagel is like half a dream.
If you want a cookie, and eat it fast, you will see the glimmer of the heavenly vault out of the corner of your eye.
There is only one right way to write Hanukkah.
Stand up for what you believe in and get along with everyone. Isn’t that easy? Haha! Now you understand why there are no cookies in the house.
Princess Leia wore her hair that way so to have two Danish available for breakfast at all times.
Do whatever makes you happy, but let’s talk about the definition of “happy” through weekly phone calls and frequent texts, okay?
Nothing’s funny about Yiddish. Except your father.

משנה מסכת בידחות אבא

זאָגט די משנה. דער פֿאָטער מאַכט אַ שלעכטן וויץ. וואָס איז דער דין? זאָגט ר’ מיכל, גיב אַ קרעכץ. זאָגט ביילקע, פֿאַרקײַקל די אויגן און שאָקל מיטן קאָפּ אויף ניין. די חכמים זאָגן, אַז ביידע זײַנען גערעכט. וואָס איז אָבער דער דין אַז דער פֿאָטער זאָגט א קאָמישן וויץ? זאָגט אסתּרל, אַפֿילו איך ווייס אַז דאָס איז נישט מעגלעך. זאָגט ביילקע, כ’בין שוין גענוג אַלט צו מאַכן אַליין גוטע וויצן. היתּכן? זאָגט דער פאָטער. נישט מעגלעך. תּיקו.

את תהי לאלפי רבבה
או לבת 13
תהי מה שאת רוצה
בכל העולם לגמרי

בכל סיפור שלא כותבת
בכל שפה בעולם
ה’ דרכיך תשכיל. זאת אומרת:
תעלי לעילא בסולם.

***

When I think about her bat mitzvah, I think of it — as I do any major event — on many levels. In one sense the ceremony is mainly about her as an individual, her transformation (slowly and imperceptibly, in the moment, but retrospectively surprising and sudden) into a Jewish adult, navigating between choice and obligation. This is her gift now, to do with as she pleases, to open or abandon — what a horrifying and freeing thought all at once!

But we wouldn’t be doing this ceremony at all if it was just a thing-for-her. There are many Jewish worlds, histories, and dramas in parallel, and she can participate in many of them at once. There is the drama of relationship with God, spiritual creativity, and the perfection of compassion through the high art of halacha, liturgy, and Torah study. There is the meaning-making, innovation, and searching for the usable past which is modern Jewish culture — freeing oneself from past bonds while discovering for oneself what is to be a Jew. That search is made much more difficult without Hebrew and Yiddish, languages she knows and has a connection to. Finally, there is the life of a Jew in the world, supporting a democratic, Jewish Israel which does not oppress Palestinians, and being a citizen in these free, democratic United States. As I told her after Election Day, “It’s up to your generation to fix our mistakes.” And we said together: “No pressure!”

She is compassionate, sensitive, artistic, intelligent, and (sometimes!) focused. She has all the talents and skills she needs to ask the question, “What does it mean to make the world better for both Jews and non-Jews?”, and then do it. The manner of her doing so remains to be seen. I can hardly wait.