By Rabbi Tamara Cohen
Today is your bat/bar/b’nai/b-mitzvah and it is a day of celebration.
It is not the day you and your family envisioned and planned for. And we are so sorry because that’s what we all wanted it to be.
But your Torah will be no less wise in your living room or emptier-than-planned-for-sanctuary than in the full sanctuary you and your family had envisioned.
Your prayers will be no less resonant and powerful live -streamed/on FaceTime/or shared only with ten hand-scrubbed family members than if shared from the bima.
Our tradition values a minyan, as you know, but our sages also teach that the Divine Presence is present whenever Torah is shared even between two people.
Today you are an adult in Jewish tradition. And over these days and weeks you have had to face the challenges of this moment in a way that many adults are struggling with. And you have done it, you have held disappointment, fear and uncertainty, and the pain of broken dreams. This is not the part of being an adult your community planned to impart to you today, but it is part of being an adult.
We want to remind you that making joy is also part of being an adult. And even more so, it is part of being a teenager which is really what you are becoming today. So, we wish you the ability to be joyous on this day — in your own heart and with those very close to you. Be joyous this weekend—online and in person, watching funny videos or dancing in your room even if we can’t pick you up on a chair and have dozens of people circle dancing around you right now.
You know how to connect without touching someone more than many adults do. You know how to create joy wherever you are. You also know how to help others and name the big changes we need to make in our world. You will help us do better than we have these past few weeks and months and years. You and your friends and your generation are going to do better at solving global problems—you will have to, and we believe you have what it takes.
Mazal Tov to you and your family. Know that your family and friends, those who are near and those who are farther than they wanted to be are celebrating you today. And our Jewish community and world is welcoming you with jazz hands, with appropriate distance—but most importantly with an abundance of pride and love.