Our Miracle Child
It’s very hard to believe that Veronica and I are standing here at our daughter Jenna’s Bat Mitzvah today. Can it actually be 13 years since after 36 hours in a birthing room at Mt. Sinai Hospital; Veronica put down her container of Chicken Lo Mein and announced “OK, I think I’m ready”? And, then just moments later, Jenna slide almost effortlessly into our lives, our miracle child.
I’m sure all parents think of their children as miracles. But Jenna, you came into your parents’ lives at a pretty late date. I mean I already had two grown daughters and I’m pretty sure your Mom believed that she would never know first-hand the joys of motherhood. But that all changed one day when I was returning from a business trip and your mother greeted me at the door with “sit down, we have to talk”.
Now I’m sure most of the people sitting here today know that what usually comes after “sit down, we have to talk” isn’t especially pleasant. But you Mom’s next words were “I’m pregnant!” My next words of course can’t be repeated here this evening. But, as the reality sunk in, both your mother and I believed that we had been blessed with a gift from God.
Today, almost 13 years later, we stand here with you certain that we have been blessed. You have brought joy to our lives on each and every day of your life. And this includes even those days when things just didn’t seem to be going right. You know, the slammed bedroom doordays or the “Jenna, get down here” moments. Even on those days though you might not have known it you brought us joy. We have watched you grow, gain knowledge, a bit of wisdom and spread joy, love and compassion to all those around you.
It is not by accident that you were born and stand here today. Everything that happens happens for a reason. There are no accidents really. Life is not random. There is a plan to it, though at times it may seem difficult to see or understand. And, unfortunately no one is there to hand us a script that describes our part in this plan. It is ours to discover.
Today, on your Bat Mitzvah, your relationship with God becomes solely your own. You begin to take responsibility for discovering and playing your part in this plan. At times it will seem simple and effortless. At other times it will seem difficult and burdensome. As your parents, we’ll be here for as long as we’re allowed to help you find your way.
The enthusiasm you’ve shown for participating in all that Temple Beth El (and Camp Coleman) has offered you over these last several years lead me to believe that when confronted with a difficult choice in the future, if you stop and reflect, you’ll know the next right thing to do.
Your mother reminds me that you have celebrated all 13 of your birthdays as part of the Temple Beth El Community.
In listening to and discussing your Torah portion with you I know how much you value a sense of community. In these days of instant world-wide communication and anonymity this is a rare value to have at your age and it makes me proud of you that you can already appreciate that it does indeed take a village. It is this sense of community that keeps modern Judaism alive. Without it, our beliefs, traditions and laws would wither and die, and all that we were would become just a paragraph, if that, in a history book.
But with your appreciation of this sense of community, I trust that at least one more generation will get to enjoy our rich heritage.
Jenna, I’ve often told you how proud you make me feel. And when you’ve asked why I’ve always said “because you’re you”. What I mean of course is because you are the person that you are. Now I could take this opportunity to tell you all the things you do that make me proud, but I sense that would just get you all embarrassed and red-faced, right. Well, let me make one exception. Let’s turn to your friends.
Your choice of friends, whether at home or Camp Coleman has always impressed me. Whenever you’ve introduced me to one of your friends I could almost always see quickly why you would choose such a friend. You do seem to have a special skill of surrounding yourself with not just the best and the brightest, but also the nicest and the kindest. And it’s pleasure to look out over the congregation and see their faces here today.
Many years ago, in fact long before you were born, I was asked during a conversation about my children; at that time, just Sara and Jaime. I can clearly remember saying “I would wish my children on anyone”. I hope you know that today, on your Bat Mitzvah day, I can, and still do make that claim.
When I started out preparing to give this speech, like most parents I didn’t know where to begin. So I tried looking for some snappy quote that would serve as a theme. You know something that Mark Twain or Will Rogers might have once said. Well, after a few hours I realized that neither Mark nor Will were going to help me out here. This was my speech to write. I did however come across some pretty memorable quotes. I’d like to share just one with all who are here today; a quote that spoke out to me. No, it’s not Mark Twain or Will Rogers. It’s not some famous quote one might easily recognize.
It’s actually from John W. Whitehead, the constitutional lawyer. He said,
“Our children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.”
Standing here today, I’m certain that in you Jenna, we are sending the future the right message.
Jenna, one day, I hope that you get to experience the sheer joy that both your mother and I are experiencing right now standing here alongside you on this most important day. We love you so very much.