Today is my daughter’s 13th birthday. It’s hard to imagine that thirteen years have passed since we became parents for the first time. Our daughter has matured into a beautiful young women and I am often flabbergasted that some of the characteristics that were so challenging in a six-year-old, like stubbornness, strong will and independence have turned into assets as an emerging teenager.
2011 proves to be quite a momentous year for both my daughter and myself. In July, she will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah and in November my book will arrive in bookstores. According to Jewish Law, Jewish boys become Bar Mitzvah on their thirteenth birthdays and Jewish girls become Bat Mitzvah sometime after their twelfth birthdays. At this time, they are eligible to become full members of the Jewish community, assuming adult responsibilities for their choices and behaviors according to Jewish law.
The reality that we are even planning this event sometimes feels momentous in itself, since a few years ago it wasn’t clear that our daughter was willing to take on the preparations necessary to become a Bat Mitzvah. She doesn’t love attending synagogue and finds services “long and boring”. So encouraging her to spend several hours a week for the past two years preparing for this opportunity initially felt like an impossible task. Thank goodness both Rabbis at our synagogue were willing to think outside the box with our daughter and find a meaningful way to celebrate this sacred tradition. We were lucky enough to have found two amazing tutors as well who have embraced our daughter and have helped her learn the skills and blessings she will need to lead a bat mitzvah service and be called up to the Torah that morning. In the end, we have chosen to host this event, not at a synagogue but at Willowbrook, an outdoor summer arts camp that my daughter has attended since she was three. It is a spiritual and special place for our entire family. While it will be a bit unconventional, I think it reflects our need to find a meaningful opportunity to celebrate this milestone in a unique way, especially for a child who has clearly been an out of the box Jewish thinker. As a parent, the most delightful part of this whole experience has been watching her begin to undertake this endeavor with the kind of commitment she gives to other activities she’s more passionate about, like theatre and singing.
In addition, to a summer bat mitzvah, my 1000 Mitzvah Book: How Small Acts of Kindness Can Heal, Inspire and Change your Life will be out in November and I too have been on a journey of personal growth through this experience. I have enjoyed discovering the process of writing, editing and publishing. I have heard the words of my own mentor and professor Bernie Reisman from my graduate school at Brandeis University many times during this year and his famous words to, “Trust the Process.” He was so right and it feels like letting go of the outcome and trusting that process has been gratifying for both of us.
So it feels timely to launch a new part of the 1000 Mitzvahs project today on this Monday, January 31st.
In our country a lot of people experience Monday morning blues. They drag themselves to jobs they hate and spend their days getting through the week. Maybe you are even feeling that way today. On some Monday mornings during my mitzvah project, I sat down to write a thank-you card, or made a phone call first thing, seeing it as an answer to the Monday morning blues. It worked perfectly. Starting your week with some gratitude and appreciation trickles into the rest of your day and week and it is a great practice to get into.
This weekend, I launched my 1,000 Mitzvahs Facebook Fan Page (thanks to those that have already liked it). Today will begin my mitzvah mornings campaign. Today’s launch invites you to participate.Will you join me in committing to doing ONE mitzvah or act of kindness a week? It doesn’t have to be anything major or life changing, just do one small act of kindness this week.
Here are a few ideas if you can’t think of anything.
Hold the Door
Write a note to someone who mentored you
Buy the person behind you a cup of coffee
Pay someone’s toll
Each week I will post new suggestions for mitzvah moments. If you have your own stories or have quick ideas for a mitzvah to suggest or one you have done, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please share these ideas with you family and friends and encourage them to join you in your weekly mitzvah or act of kindness. It doesn’t need to be anything heroic, just do one small act of kindness each week. I am hoping that 2011 will be a year when you also feel inspired and notice that each of us makes a difference and though your small act of kindness may seem simple, it is like throwing a pebble into a still lake, the ripple continues after that initial contact.
Looking forward to hearing from you and what mitzvahs come your way this week!