I seem to have gone from trying to post at least once a week to being lucky if I post once a month! Still plenty to say, but not such a lot of time to say it! In the last month we celebrated our third daughter’s becoming a bas mitzvah. Now that all the celebrations have concluded, with the return of my husband and our daughter from a trip to Israel, (I can’t quite work out why when he works full-time and I work part-time, it’s easier for him to get away…), I’ve been able to put some thoughts together.
When our children began to reach halachic adulthood, we were very conscious of the fact that our third and fourth children are boy/girl twins and that we did not want our daughter to feel that she was undervalued in comparison to her brother. A friend of ours, who grew up in a very chareidi community, told us that when she became bas mitzvah, she had a few friends round for tea, but when her brother became bar mitzvah a year later, he had a whole weekend of celebrations. Given that this was still bothering her several years later, we did not want the same thing to happen in our family. So, we have made a similar celebration for each of our daughters so far to that which we hope to make for our sons, beginning next year, iy”H.
Our shul has very kindly marked the girls’ bas mitzvahs with a communal seudah shelishis – see here for a report of the most recent one. We have made a seudas mitzvah, on their birthday or as close as possible to it, for our family and friends and the children have been treated to a trip to Israel, with as much touring and sightseeing as possible. See here for my husband’s article about the reason for this.
While I appreciate that in some circles, a bas mitzvah is marked with little display, we feel that our daughters are as entitled to their “moment in the sun” as our sons. Some people would say that this happens for a girl when she gets married, but these days, who knows when (or even, if) this will happen. Also reaching adulthood is just as significant for a girl as for a boy – she now has an obligation to do mitzvos, just as he does – so why not welcome her to the adult world with some fanfare? In circles, such as ours, where women have a serious religious and secular education, and have the potential to pursue fulfilling and satisfying careers in whatever field they chose (and I’m including homemaking and bringing up children in that) to distinguish between the level of celebration for boys and girls seems archaic and unnecessary.
Our daughters have all spent some time during the year preceeding their bas mitzvah learning with my husband, following which they have prepared a dvar Torah to present at the seudas mitzvah/seuda shelishis. In order to convince our oldest daughter that she really did have to speak, I had to offer to speak as well, at both events, which I have continued to do for our other daughters. I’m hoping not to do this at the bar mitzvahs! But I think it is important for the girls to see that both men and women can speak in public and share Torah ideas. It’s also an opportunity to focus on each child’s positive characteristics and give them a tailor-made bracha for the future. I hope that our daughters were able to take away something meaningful from the speeches at the seudos, and if not, mine are saved on my computer!