In first person…Bat mitzvah shawl is symbol of love

It happened in Queens, New York in 1960 when I was 13 years old. I announced to my father, for some long-forgotten reason, that I intended to try on his tallis. He asked me not to. He said it was not allowed. I answered, "Humph," marched right into his bedroom closet and removed the prayer shawl from the familiar blue velvet bag.

I returned to the living room with his holy tallis draped around me like a mink stole. As I stood in defiance before him, he broke out in a smile. "Hey," he laughed. "It doesn't look so bad on you."

Some 23 years later, my father watched my daughter Jennifer become the first female in the history of our family to chant from the Torah at her bat mitzvah at Congregation Kol Emeth in Palo Alto. The tallis, this time appropriately draped, was purchased by her grandfather. He and Mom also sprung for the matching velvet bag.

Dressed in white with the pale blue prayer shawl wrapped around her, Jennifer looked like an angel. And if you had seen my father's face as he watched her that day, you would have thought he was looking at one.

It's amazing what you can accomplish with your own child when your father gives you unconditional love.