Spirituality, Judaism, and My Daughter
I often talk about Bailey and his spiritual journey, but I don’t often speak about Sydney. It could be because Bailey is older and his bar mitzvah is right around the corner, but it could also be that Bailey relates to the religious/spiritual aspects of Judaism in a different way than Sydney does. Sydney, if you must know, is a Jew’s Jew. Her first concern is the food. She loves any and all ethnic food, and of course Jewish food is no exception – perhaps one of her favorite foods in the world is bagels and lox. Like I said, a good Jew.
Two weeks ago, we were at Shabbat morning services and Bailey wasn’t feeling well. It was a small group at synagogue, just enough for a minyan, a group of ten needed to recite certain prayers, and bring out the Torah from the ark. The rabbi called me to the Torah, and normally Bailey would have joined me up there on the bimah in front of the congregation, but as I mentioned, he wasn’t feeling 100%. Often I leave Sydney at home during services, too, but that week she was with us also.
When I went up to the Torah, the rabbi motioned for me to bring Sydney with me. It was her first time to go with her mom for an aliyah. Having analiyah is a formal and predictable thing – I approached the Torah, said the prayers, the congregation responded and the Torah reader read the portion of the week. I said the prayer to close myaliyah and that was that. Or was it?
Something I love about Judaism is that every single synagogue across the globe is doing the exact same thing. I can tell you the order of the service and the portion of the Torah that will be read. I can even predict with some reliability, what the rabbi will discuss as a sermon – a d’var Torah – word of Torah – based on certain readings and interpretations. Judasim, you might know, is a matrilineal religion, passed through the mother. From generation to generation, from mother to child, and in this case, my daughter.
I showed her the Hebrew of the prayers as I said them. I put her in front of me to watch the rabbi read the Torah, moving the pointer across the hand-written, ancient text lovingly as he chanted the story in familiar tunes and rhythms. I held her hand on the wood of the scrolls to share the reading – to physically, as well as spiritually be part of the Torah as it was being read for us. As recently as one hundred years ago, neither she nor I would have been able to go in front of the Torah – women didn’t do that back then. Not only that, but women didn’t wear prayer shawls – tallit – either, and I proudly wear the one my in-laws bought me not long after Marc and I were married.
When I see Sydney, I see the future. I see potential and beauty. I see a young lady who understands where she comes from and it helps propel her into where she’s going. Sydney is strong and opinionated and she is talkative and interested. “That was fun, Mom,” she said when the whole thing was done. She has a nonchalant way about her that lets me know she is thinking hard. “That was my first time, but it’s definitely not my last.” I knew from the tone of her voice and the still-limited number of words she used that she was processing it all, and we would be discussing the experience in great detail, in its component parts, for weeks to come. I squeezed her hand, which is still quite small in mine.
My blessing, my gift, is this girl of mine. It is my privilege to raise her as the ancient blessings proclaim, to a life of spirituality and righteousness. The path may not be easy, but it is our path and we walk it proudly.