My Torah portion is taken from the book of Leviticus, beginning with chapter 23, verse 1. In my portion, God is telling Moses what to tell the rest of the Jews. What he is telling him is about the “sacred occasions.” The ones mentioned are Shabbat, Passover, and Sukkot.
There is a lot of talk about when you do work, and when you don’t. When referring to the day when you don’t work, the word Shabbat is used. The word Shabbat literally means, “to stop.” But what are we really stopping? We’re not just stopping working at our occupations; we’re stopping our normal routine to allow time for ourselves, our family, and God.
The way you decide to spend your day determines whether it is a holiday or a holy day. Notice how close they are. A holiday belongs to us; it’s about what we want to do, when we want to do it. It’s about having fun, and we don’t really think about what we’re even celebrating. A holy day belongs to God, it’s about thinking about God, and reflecting. It is meaningful and personal.
But in the end, any sacred occasion can be either a holiday or a holy day. I was trying to think of the best way to convey this thought about holidays and holy days, and I decided what better example than my Bat Mitzvah itself. I could be just thinking about the party that I’m having tonight. Thinking about the presents, my dress, the way the room is going to look, and the other countless things that there are to think about that have to do with the party. That would be a holiday. I could be just thinking about the service that I’m having right now. Thinking about my torah, haftarah, the trope, what it means to become a Bat Mitzvah, and the many prayers that are going to be said and have already been said. That would be a holy day. I feel that I am in the middle of that spectrum. I care a lot about the party and that stuff, but I also care a lot about the service and my Jewish identity. I believe this is the best way to become a Bat or Bar Mitzvah. If I only cared about the party, there’d be no point in having a service because I’d be doing something that I don’t care about, and you should always try 100% and there’d be no point to spend all this time on something that I wasn’t going to put my 100% into. If I only cared about the service, well, that wouldn’t work either, because you have to have some way of celebrating all the hard work that went into the service.
I like to think of my Bat Mitzvah, this day, as a person holding two weights. One symbolizing the celebration, and one symbolizing the service. I have to be strong to hold both. I have to be strong to make sure that I don’t slip to either side of the spectrum, that I don’t lose sight of either of the parts of this great day. The person that fits best into this metaphor is my dad. He’s physically strong enough to hold both weights, but also, I think he does an amazing job with really caring about the Jewish aspects of “sacred occasions,” but also has fun and celebrates the “sacred occasions.”
Those of you here who have enjoyed our Passover seder or have eaten under our sukkah (the only built in sukkah in Boston) know what I mean. He is the perfect example of someone who can make a holy holiday, which is a hard thing to do. I want to be able to make this very special day in my life, a holy holiday. And I’m so glad that all of you could be here to join me in its celebration.