Today my family attended a Bat Mitzvah service in a reconstructionist congregation. Before the service began, the rabbi explained that the prayers in the service were amended from the traditional ones to be gender inclusive. Also, when a prayer offered a blessing on the Jewish people, a clause was added to extend the blessings to all people. The feminist in me was satisfied by the desire to be inclusive, even as I was a bit startled by the cantor who played the guitar as she sang and by the musician who added drum accompaniment to the more rousing parts of the service.
For me, what was most memorable about the service was when the girl’s mother approached the dais to present her daughter, Rose, with her first prayer shawl. The mother wore a shawl identical to the one she wrapped over Rose’s shoulders. Both were hand-dyed a vibrant green and purple. As she did this, her mother explained that they had made the shawls together.
It’s embarrassing to me now, but as I saw this I started crying. Big hot tears welling and rolling down my cheeks. I’m not much of a crier–so I was caught completely by surprise. And I was more than a bit embarrassed, too, given that it wasn’t a particularly ‘touching’ part of the service.
But when Rose’s mother stood there on the dais and spoke, I recalled my own desires to participate in my children’s ordinances–particularly my desire to conduct my daughter’s baptismal service. Coming-of-age rituals like Bat Mitzvahs and Baptisms and Priesthood Ordinations offer an important moment for a community to validate the spiritual and physical maturation of its children. For me, being denied a role in the LDS ordinances (other than sitting on the sidelines), hurts deeply. I know the intention is not to make me feel a less important member of God’s Kingdom, but it’s hard to see it any other way.