My birthday is in the spring, but I celebrated becoming bat mitzvah in midwinter. During Chanukah, actually. I think we chose the date because some of my older siblings already lived far away, and Shabbat Chanukah would be a relatively manageable time for far-flung family to get away from their ordinary lives and join us in San Antonio to celebrate.
Practicing Torah reading, while my grandparents looked on.
(Photo taken a few days in advance, since no photography was permitted on Shabbat.)
It's been twenty-five years since I celebrated becoming a daughter of the commandments, and took on the obligations of Jewish adulthood, among them learning Torah, doing mitzvot, and praying in community. As it happens, I'm leading services this Shabbat, too -- as I do twice every month, blessed as I am to serve as my community's rabbi! -- and I'll be reading from Torah tomorrow and offering a d'var Torah tomorrow morning, just as I did 25 years ago.
I remember that when I was studying toward becoming bat mitzvah, I got the notion (from where, I can't say: from my tutor Sarah? from reading books? from somewhere in the cultural zeitgeist?) that proper preparation meant that if the rabbi were to call in sick, the bat mitzvah girl ought to be able to lead the entire service on her own. I don't think I quite managed that, even then, but I do remember leading much of the service. I remember thinking that it was really fun. I liked singing; I liked learning trope (cantillation) for Torah and haftarah. I liked leading the community in prayer.
Receiving the Torah from the generations before me. L to R: my grandmother Alice z"l, my mother Liana, and me.
I'm not sure I would have believed it, twenty-five years ago, if someone had been able to travel through time and inform me that some quarter of a century hence I would be a rabbi. But then again, maybe I would have taken that in stride. One way or another, I'm unendingly thrilled to be leading davenen tomorrow -- parashat Miketz, shabbat Chanukah -- as I did all those years ago. Happy Bat Mitzvah-versary to me!