Teaching is among the most fulfilling and rewarding of my Rabbinic endeavors. For, while teaching – both formally in classes and informally in daily living – I am always blessed to be learning, sharing, and rejoicing in the brilliance and joys of Judaism and Jewish living. And among my most treasured teaching activities at ACI is the two-year Ba’alat Mitzvahprogram I created and began teaching at ACI nine years ago.
As we prepare to celebrate the graduates of the third Ba’alat Mitzvah class on May 26 during Shabbat services, I relate the engagement with Torah that these two wonderful women – Stephanie Luxenberg and Irene Sprung – have had in our class, with the holiday of Shavu’ot to be observed just one week before their ceremony.
When the People of Israel received the Torah at Mt. Sinai, they were hardly in a position to engage with its contents and teachings. Their situation – the unfamiliarity with both freedom and Torah – made the approach of na’aseh v’nishmah (“we will do and we will hear”) imperative. They could, at that time and in that place, do no more than simply do as instructed (not that they always listened!), and only later try to understand and absorb. We have come a long way from then and there, with Torah and freedom now wholly foundational to our Jewish living.
It has been so deeply gratifying for me to engage in Torah embracing, Torah study, and lessons for Torah living with Stephanie and Irene. Their differing backgrounds, Jewish observances, and life experiences have served to make this learning journey all the more fascinating and productive. Their decision to become ba’a lot mitzvah is so admirable; their dedication to seeing this demanding program through is so venerable; and, most important, their commitment to fulfilling the ultimate mission of being a ba’alat mitzvah – namely, to engage fully and thoughtfully in a life of miztvot – is to be held in the highest esteem.
On behalf of my family and of the ACI congregational family, I extend best wishes for mazal tov to Stephanie and Irene. והאר עיניכן, נישמתכן, וחייכן בתורתנו May your eyes, souls, and very lives be enlightened with our Torah.