When the rabbis daughter marks bat mitzvah ceremony

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We've marked the one-month anniversary of the bat mitzvah of our daughter Ariella Tamar. By now we have paid all the bills and Ariella is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel of thank-you notes and acknowledgments. The details are behind us, and what remains are cherished memories of a beautiful simchah in the life of our daughter, our family and our congregation.

As the rabbi's daughter, Ariella faced added strains and more than her fair share of pressure. She knew there would be a very large crowd in the sanctuary, since the entire congregation was invited. And as she prepared for her ceremony, a few well-intentioned folks shared comments such as: "You must really be nervous, being the rabbi's daughter!"

Like her sister before her, Ariella was tutored by her parents. Mom trained her for her haftarah, much as she had tutored youngsters in her home congregation two decades earlier. Dad trained Ariella for her Torah reading and tefillot (prayers) and helped her prepare a d'var Torah (speech).

Having your parents as your bat mitzvah tutors is certainly a mixed blessing. The family living room is hardly the ideal classroom setting, what with repeated interruptions from phone, siblings and the dog. Worst of all, you can't ask your folks to fire the tutor when you get frustrated with your lessons.

As parents, we set high standards for our three children. We hope that they will love being Jewish and feel at home in the synagogue, the Jewish community and the community at large. We expect them to continue their Jewish education well beyond the age of 13. We want them to become knowledgeable, committed Jews who are conversant in the basic vocabulary of Jewish life.

We viewed Ariella's bat mitzvah as one step in this lifelong quest. We sought to remain focused on the ceremony itself rather than the reception. We tried to avoid being swallowed up by the seemingly endless details of bat mitzvah festivities.

The week before the event saw a frenzy of activity in our household. There were the usual concerns: picking up relatives at the airport; finalizing arrangements for the food, flowers, photography and music; participating in a final rehearsal in the sanctuary. And there were some special considerations: Dad worrying about what he was going to say to his daughter as both rabbi and father; Mom wondering about the elusive final number of guests; Ariella seeking refuge from all the pressure by spending time with cousins and friends.

At last, the bat mitzvah weekend arrived. On Friday night, Ariella led the Kabbalat Shabbat service, a marvelous tune-up for her bat mitzvah ceremony. The next morning, she was called up to the bimah at the start of the Torah service. We watched with immense pride and joy as she calmly led the tefillot, chanted her Torah and haftarah portions and delivered her d'var Torah.

With tears in our eyes, we recalled our daughter's birth nearly 13 years ago. When we gave her the name Ariella, little did we know what a perfect match it would be for her personality. For the Hebrew word Ariella means "lioness of God." Today we see that she has earned her name. Like a lioness, she is strong and independent, spirited and intelligent.

Ariella's bat mitzvah was all that we had hoped for, and much more. Dad struggled mightily not to embarrass his daughter, at least not too much. Mom received equal time to offer her thoughts about Ariella. Mom, Dad and other family members all took their turns reading from the Torah and sharing other honors in the Torah service. Above all, Ariella herself transcended the pressure and demonstrated enormous poise, maturity and skill on and off the bimah.

What do we feel one month after Ariella's bat mitzvah? Great joy that family and friends from near and far joined us for the celebration. Great pride in Ariella's outstanding accomplishments. Great satisfaction that Ariella (and we) really enjoyed the festivities. Finally, a great sense of relief that the bat mitzvah is over, and we have five years to prepare for her brother's bar mitzvah.