May 19, 2024
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Thoughts in Honor of My Daughter Atara’s Bat Mitzvah

Is there a reason to celebrate? Just because when a young lady reaches the age of 12 and a boy reaches the age of 13 they become obligated in mitzvot, is it a reason to make a joyous party? One could have thought this to be a time of disappointment of leaving the “luxury” of not being obligated to fulfill miztvot. No longer is there a choice but a must. This does not seem to make a compelling case for a party.

The answer lies in a classic debate in the Gemara as to whether the volunteer or the obligated individual receives more reward for their efforts. Originally, Rav Yosef thought that volunteering is superior since it expresses a love of Hashem’s mitzvot. However, he concludes that the obligated individual receives a richer reward.

The essence of shemirat mitzvot is our responding to Hashem’s command. What fundamentally distinguishes a human being from an animal is that a human being is commanded to perform mitzvot. When Adam and Chavah are created, the very first thing that occurs is they are issued commands by Hashem.

Mitzvot are the basic source of joy and self-esteem in our lives. Mitzvot are what make our lives worthwhile. We are important in Hashem’s eyes, not just a bump on a log. There is meaning to our lives.

Sepharadim recite Yismehoo V’Malchutecha Shomerei Shabbat (Shabbat observers rejoice in Hashem’s rule) in every Tefillah on Shabbat. We are thrilled beyond all measure that Hashem is our Melech, giving our lives meaning, purpose and direction.

Is this reason for a party? There is no better reason for a party. When we make either a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah celebration, explain the Ben Ish Hai and Hacham Ovadia Yosef, it is a celebration of the joy of being a Jew. The joy of knowing that our Creator, Avinu Shebashamayim, loves us and regards us and our actions as very precious. There is no greater joy and no better reason to celebrate.

Rabbi Haim Jachter is the spiritual leader of Congregation Shaarei Orah, the Sephardic Congregation of Teaneck.

By Rabbi Haim Jachter

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