“Leah, it doesn’t have to be so sexy.” That’s my cantor for you. She knows that I’m 29, going on 13, and she can say things differently to me than she does the normal bat mitzvah student. “Okay, this is the sexy one.”
Yes, that’s right. At 29, I am learning trope and preparing for my bat mitzvah. It is scheduled for March 17, 2007, just one week before my 30th birthday. Since I converted when I was 28, I missed out on becoming a bat mitzvah during junior high. Now I’m spending my weekends in my cantor’s office practicing reading and chanting Torah.
There are plenty of rabbis who don’t see an adult bat mitzvah as something you should do. You become a bar or bat mitzvah with or without the ceremony, just the act of turning 13 does it and so does converting.
To become bat mitzvah is to become a daughter of the commandments. It means that I am responsible as an adult in the community for the commandments or mitzvot. When I went before the beit din, the rabbinical court that judged my conversion, and when I came out of the mikveh, the ritual bath, I was a Jewish adult.
What can I say? I like a challenge and I like an opportunity for more Jewish learning. So a few months after my conversion, my cantor and I started talking. We picked a date and a Torah portion and then I spent three months not studying at all.
I’m now 66 days away from my bat mitzvah and studying torah and trope like a fiend. To everyone who did this during middle school, kol hakavod. To anyone who hasn’t done it yet, please join me. It’s scary, but I think it will be worth it.
Originally published in January, 2007 on Shebrew.com