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Article originally posted on 9/10/12 on Yaldah.com

Mazel Tov to Tonni Schmuckler on winning the Yaldah Magazine Bat Mitzvah Essay Contest! Read and comment on her winning essay below!

Bat Mitzvah:
Celebration or Delegation?

by Tonni Schmuckler, age 14, from Montreal

A graduation celebrates a completion of studies and freedom of tests and homework. A birthday celebrates another year of life. A Bat Mitzvah celebrates a Jewish girl’s newfound responsibility to Torah and Mitzvot. If you think of it, the oddest celebration in a Jewish girl’s life is her Bat Mitzvah. And yet, it’s the most celebrated. Why someone would want to be Bat Mitzvah puzzles many people.

Before a girl’s twelfth birthday, she is not held accountable for anything. Any Mitzvot she does are under the category of Chinuch (education) and are merits, not obligations. Once she enters the coveted category of Bat Mitzvah, everything changes since she is now obligated to fulfill G-d’s commandments. Which is why a Bat Mitzvah celebration may seem so odd.

So why celebrate? Why celebrate responsibility and obligation? Life is much easier without it. Why pay for something when you’ve been getting it for free?

The answer is simple: The Torah is not an obligation. One may look at it like one, but it’s far from it. G-d’s Torah is more that just a rulebook, it’s the map of life. Life is full of twists and turns, so the gift of the “GPS of life” is not only useful for a girl on the brink of adulthood; it’s downright appropriate.

Not only is the Torah a guidebook, it’s the blueprint of the world. It’s also G-d’s birthday present to each and every Jewish girl. The Creator of The World entrusts the Bat Mitzvah with His most precious object, the Torah. He trusts her! The gift and His trust are definitely worth a celebration.

Unlike your average birthday present, the Torah is the gift that keeps giving. When a Jew takes on the Mitzvot, he takes on peace of mind as well. The knowledge that by following the Torah he can’t go wrong is comforting and helpful in the frenzy of today’s turbulent society.

Besides, becoming a Bat Mitzvah is like joining a club. It’s joining a group of people who follow G-d’s commandments and have a purpose. Up until now, you’ve been a bystander. As of your twelfth birthday, you are a full-fledged member. So a Bat Mitzvah is not only a celebration of G-d’s trust and gift, it’s your inauguration to a people whose purpose is to spread light. In a way, it’s your own personal Matan Torah (receiving of the Torah).

A Bat Mitzvah is not something celebrated on just your twelfth birthday; it’s something you celebrate constantly. Two years ago I celebrated my Bat Mitzvah, and I’m still celebrating today. Happy Bat Mitzvah! Welcome to the club!


 
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Name: Lisa Stein
Town:
Allentown, PA
Bat Mitzvah Date:
May 2012
Mitzvah Project:

Part 1 – Raising money online for a girl from the Rubin-Zeffren home to have a Bat Mitzvah celebration
Part 2 – Talent Show to raise money for the music program at the girls’ home

Tell us a little about yourself
I am 13 years old. I play the cello and sing and love music! I have an older brother who is starting college. He’s a great violinist, and we enjoy playing music together, especially at erev Shabbat services at our synagogue. In school, I enjoy orchestra, math, creative writing and working with my school’s TV station. I also like to ride my bicycle with my Dad and take photos with my Mom.

How did you decide to take on this particular project for Lev LaLev?
When searching for a mitzvah project, I was sure that I wanted to pick a project that somehow related to helping other children. My family had been buying Rosh Hashanah cards from Lev LaLev. When writing one of the cards and admiring the beautiful drawing on the front of the card, I asked my mom who had drawn it. She said a child probably the same age as me or younger had created the artwork; I was surprised and intrigued.

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I looked at the Lev LaLev website and found tons of information about the orphanage. Most of the girls there were abused and did not feel safe at home. Lev LaLev takes them in as their own, and the girls are finally able to feel happy and secure in their new home. One of the many interesting facts that I found is that a Bat Mitzvah can be sponsored. Everything fell into place; I wanted to help another child, and the girls at this orphanage do not get the privilege of a Bat Mitzvah ceremony and celebration as I do. 

What was the most meaningful part of doing this Mitzvah Project for your Bat Mitzvah?
It was seeing the pure happiness on the Bat Mitzvah girls’ face when Sheena sent me pictures from her celebration. As soon as I saw her joy, I knew I had helped make a change in her life.

Please share any details or fond memories of your Mitzvah Project and Bat Mitzvah.
I was amazed that the donations kept pouring in relatively constantly, and I was really able to raise more than $1,800. I enjoyed being lifted up in a chair during my celebration on Saturday night and then seeing a picture of my Bat Mitzvah twin being lifted up in a chair during her celebration. I also loved seeing so many of my friends and family at my services and party.  

What are your plans for the future, i.e. life after Bat Mitzvah?
I am going to host the talent show in October to raise some money for the music program at the orphanage. From there on, I hope to continue my Jewish lifestyle and raise money for important causes.  

Anything else you would like to share about your experience with Lev LaLev, Bat Mitzvah or Mitzvah Project?
Sheena and Chavi have been so supportive and sweet throughout the whole experience, so if you have any questions about your project, contact them!

Please share your advice for a girl looking into doing a Mitzvah Project for her Bat Mitzvah.
Follow your heart, and you will help the hearts of others.

Join Lisa on October 14th, share your talent and support the music program at the orphanage in Israel!