Friends from the conservative West Bank settlement of Kedumim visited last week. They were aglow with satisfaction: Their eldest daughter had just announced her engagement the night before.
We said that we’re also celebrating this week: It’s our No. 1 daughter’s bat mitzva. We told them she has the honor of reading the beginning of the Book of Genesis.
The wife, a mother of two girls and three sons, looked puzzled and said, “Why would you want her to read? Was it her idea?”
I explained jokingly that it’s a combination of three factors — 1) I’m crazy, 2) I’m American, and 3) I was raised by a vehement feminist. I want our daughters to have an experience as close to their brothers’ as possible, I said.
Kinneret would be the first woman from both sides of her family to read from the Torah in a synagogue. As I imagined the occasion, choruses of “Sister Suffragette” filled my ears.
But when I had originally explained the concept to Kinneret a year ago, she’d rejected the idea immediately. When I told her she couldn’t have a party without reading from the Torah, she made a mental leap.
“OK. But if I have to do it, you’re going to do it with me. Abba had a bar mitzva, but you’ve never read from the Torah. If you think girls should have the same opportunities as boys, you have to learn, too.”
The fire of triumph filled her eyes. Not one to back away from a challenge, I said it was game on.
And so at 41 I found myself sitting in a class with my 11-year-old daughter — who bested me at every turn. She learned faster, she remembered longer, and was way more disciplined with her practice.
As for me, as the lessons progressed, the only thing I quickly learned was that mother does not know best. While I habitually crammed a week’s worth of practicing into an hour prior to lesson time, she methodically set aside half an hour before Netflix time.
The tables were turned. She was the mature one, and I was the pre-teen. And I couldn’t have been prouder.
My right hand woman at home, I trust her to step into my shoes when needed. With a spine of steel wrapped in a gentle smiling package, I am certain she will accomplish whatever she decides to do in life. And may it be long and healthy.
My beautiful daughter Kinneret is named in memory of my brother Nick (Kin-Nik) who died of skin cancer at 22. Like Nick, she is utterly her own person, and surprisingly responsible beyond her years.
In planning the Torah portions, Kinneret decided to take the opportunity to read about the creation of the world. I was tasked with the story of Cain and Abel. Chanting about the world’s first murder — followed by its first lie — I realized that my gentle, lovingly coercive Kinneret is more than her brothers’ keeper, she is my brother’s keeper.
Seeing her toiling in front of the Torah scroll is a true “Sunrise, Sunset” moment. Today, the little girl I carried is carrying me.