Celebrating My Mother’s Bat Mitzvah at Age 80
Recently, my mother, who is 80 years old, celebrated her bat mitzvah.
Now, most people know that a bat mitzvah is a Jewish coming-of-age that typically happens at 13 (or 12 for girls in some communities), and frankly, it’s just something that you are when you turn that age. You are considered a Jewish adult in terms of your responsibilities under Jewish law, whether you read from the Torah, have a party, or otherwise celebrate the occasion.
For most of history, girls did not have the opportunity to celebrate their bat mitzvah by participating in synagogue services or reading Torah. In the last 50 years, that has certainly changed, but my mother never had that option when she was a girl.
So she decided that when she turned 80, she would read from the Torah, which is a huge feat, especially if you have not spent your life reading and chanting biblical Hebrew.
My mom followed in the footsteps of her daughters and her grandchildren before her; all of us read Torah in synagogue. It’s something I learned in my 30s – not as a kid. Anything we do later in life is understandably harder, but also so much more meaningful.
My mother wanted to participate on that meaningful level, too, to express her beliefs and her identity, among community and family.
The event was low-key, and my mother was not nervous. She gave a d’var Torah, or speech, afterwards that related to the Torah portion that she chanted, and which tied into Judaic creative arts, a passion of hers since at least the 1980s.
She created a universal experience in a personal way, and tied it to friendships and activities in her own life. I was impressed when my mother spoke – she did a great job, and I felt inspired at the abilities of the woman who gave me life, and handed down to me some of her own smarts and determination.
This occasion resonated with me on so many levels. As a daughter, I was so proud of my mother for achieving this goal.
As a woman, I applaud the initiative to have more women leading services and participating in synagogue rituals.
As a divorce attorney, my mother’s bat mitzvah at 80 reminded me that it’s never too late to do anything that matters to you.
We hear about “gray divorce,” the trend of couples breaking up after 50. There is a trend of what I call gray-gray divorce, much older couples deciding to split.
It’s never too late to do something that you’ve always wanted to do, or make a change that enables you to live your best life.