Jewish law tells us that a bat mitzvah is a significant milestone, different than other birthdays. According to Jewish law, after her bat mitzvah, a young woman has moral responsibility for her own actions. In that
respect, she is no longer sheltered by her parents. Surprisingly, Jewish law makes no reference to cell phones.
We made a bat mitzvah for our daughter, Emuna, last year. It truly was a wonderful celebration. It
occurred to me that as important as the religious implications, celebrating our daughter in a communal gathering had tremendous value. Not all kids have the opportunity to be the hero of a baseball game or the last one standing on stage, correctly spelling “knaidel” before a hushed audience. A bat mitzvah gives the everyday kid an opportunity to be the center of attention, certainly a self-esteem builder.
Both my wife and I were exceedingly proud of Emuna as she passed that marker and entered into Jewish adulthood. We are grateful we had a chance to express our love and support for our daughter in such a public way.
For a year leading up to her bat mitzvah, Emuna was preparing us with predictions about what her life would be like after the big event. After all, she had listened to several friends’ bat mitzvah speeches and was already familiar with the forthcoming changes in her life and the new expectations that would ensue for her (and for us) post-bat mitzvah.
No. 1 on Emuna’s list was having a cell phone. She had been lobbying for this for a while. Emuna liked to point out all the ways she could be helpful if she had one. For example, if she made plans to go to a friend’s house during school, she could call me and let me know. It would save me from a dreaded carpool pickup. It was a ploy I had resisted many times.
Now that she was an adult, she felt her position was strengthened, and when a dear friend of ours asked her what she wanted as a bat mitzvah gift, of course she asked for that cell phone. Yet, in a last-ditch effort to keep our teen from spreading her wings too far, my wife and I stayed strong and vetoed the cell phone. Instead, Emuna received an iPod Touch, which looks like a phone, has many of the iPhone cap-abilities, but is not actually a phone. We felt victorious. We had resisted the pressure of our daughter’s constant refrain, “I’m the only one in my class who doesn’t have a phone.”
Now that Emuna’s bat mitzvah is over, and we see that she continues kicking her brother under the dinner table and flicking boogers at him, it is clear Emuna still needs a bit of polishing.
One evening, as I was passing by Emuna’s bedroom, I saw her talking on her iPod touch. What? How was this possible? Apparently, there is a phone app available that allows you to use the iTouch as a phone.
I had lost the battle without even knowing it. It was humbling moment. I guess you just can’t keep them babies forever.
Jewish law 1, Aaron 0.