On Erev Rosh Chodesh Shevat, 12 years ago my life was blessed with a miracle. My life, which up until that date was consumed by graduate studies, lab work, dissertation completion, internship hours, was turned upside down. After 9 months of discomfort, excitement and trepidation, my beautiful eldest daughter came into this world.

From the moment of her birth, my entire outlook on life changed, as I became overwhelmed by the challenge and responsibility G-d had given to my husband and me. We were given a special gift, that became our responsibility to nourish, protect and teach. Our new mission became to help this innocent, precious Neshama, full of potential and promise, to complete her mission in life.

From that day on, every decision was weighed and measured. Lengthy discussions went into what she would wear, what she would eat, would she go out or stay in, how long and where she would sleep, what school she would go to and so on and so forth. From my work with children and teenagers, I was painfully aware that everything that my precious girl would see, feel, consume, experience – would influence who she would become, how she would feel about herself, how she would negotiate the world.

Par for the course, for the past few months, much discussion and thought has gone into the best way to prepare for my precious girl’s Bat Mitzvah Celebration. The details, such as the venue, colors, food, theme, clothes and entertainment have been finalized. In our Orthodox community, while both Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations are recognized and celebrated differently by each family, celebrations are generally modest, as the party is not the main focus of this milestone birthday, but the young person’s introduction to life as a religious adult, who is now responsible for making their own choices in their commitment and devotion to religious practices.

For the past few months, my daughter and I have dedicated extra time learning religious studies together in preparation for a written presentation that will be displayed at her party. In addition, we planned and prepared a special Chessed project, for our guests to participate in at the party (we decided on decorating and packing up art supply boxes for the children of Chai Lifeline, as this charity holds a special place in our hearts.) As my daughter and I felt that these activities would elevate this special birthday celebration from just a “regular birthday party,” into something more meaningful.

To me, the party, the clothes, the rituals are just the icing on the cake. My real joy lies in looking at the young women my girl has turned into and the potential for who she is going to become. I marvel daily at the beauty, intelligence, wit and curiosity of this precious creature. When I think about her physical and spiritual growth, I am filled with pride and anxiety at the new role and responsibilities she now takes on as a Jewish women, who is becoming responsible for her own commitment to G-d and the mitzvot.

So on this day, the day of your Bat Mitzvah, I wish my precious girl a lifetime of health, joy, happiness and balance. I pray that you will always have the strength to believe in yourself, while at the same time having empathy and compassion for those around you. I pray that you rise to the occasion of being a Jewish Young Women, with all the joys, responsibilities and challenges it entails, with grace and confidence, making your mark, while at the same time staying within the boundaries of the Torah and Halacha. But mostly I pray, that you live each day to the fullest and that for every day going forward, you utilize the talent that G-d has given you, coupled with the lessons you have learned both at home and in Yeshiva, to spread your own unique light to the world around you.