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Get a Life!

Get a Life!

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We Jews are a funny people. We celebrate the weirdest things. Everyone’s heard of end-of-the-school-year parties, graduation parties, retirement parties. But who ever throws a get-to-work party?

Let me explain. Imagine that you have this dream job that’s the envy of all your friends. Then, one day you receive a summons to the boss’s office. The conversation goes something like this:

Boss: “Have a seat.”

You: “Thank you.”

Boss: “You’ve been here—what is it, twelve years now?”

You: “Yeah, it’s almost that already. You guys take such good care of me . . .”

Boss: “We pay you a comfortable living wage, plus full health benefits, free daycare and spa privileges, 31 days annual paid vacation . . .”

You: “Yes. I’m truly thankful.”

Boss: “And what are your duties and responsibilities?”

You: “Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I’ve no duties or responsibilities.”

Boss: “You don’t even have to come to work, if you don’t want to.”

You: “Oh, but I do. Lots of times. It’s fun. I hang around the office, see how things are done. Sometimes they even let me help out. You’d be surprised at how much I’ve learned. And I participate in all the company banquets and outings. I wouldn’t miss those for anything . . .”

Boss: “Well, young lady, the party’s over.”

You: “W-what do you mean?”

Boss: “The party’s over. Here, take this manual. It spells out your obligations . . .”

You: “Uh, it’s sorta big and heavy. There must be almost a thousand pages in this book . . .”

Boss: “Actually, what you’re holding in your hand is a very basic summary. The rest is in the library downstairs . . .”

You: “Oh, I know the library. There are tens of thousands of volumes there . . .”

Boss: “Well, we’re doing important work here. And, starting tonight at sundown, you’re going to be expected to be doing your part. You’ll begin by following instructions, but to do your job right, you’ll also need to understand the whys and the hows behind those instructions . . . You’ve picked up quite a bit in your time here, but we have guys who’ve been here all their adult lives and are still learning. Anyway, congratulations and good luck. I’ll be watching your progress over the next 108 years . . .”

You: “. . . a hundred and eight years?”

Boss: “At least. Hopefully longer. Oh, by the way, don’t forget to pick up your new ID tag at the front office on your way out.”

After a conversation like that, would you run home and throw a party to celebrate? My daughter did. This week, she celebrated her bat mitzvah, the day that she became twelve years old.

A bat mitzvah is not an oversized birthday party. Leah’s had eleven of those already. This is very different. What she celebrated was the fact that on the eve of her twelfth birthday she became bat mitzvah—a person who under Torah law is commanded, obligated and responsible to fulfill the mitzvot of the Torah.

She celebrated the fact that the Boss had called her into the office and told her that the party was over. Until now, she’d received everything her heart desired from Above, and was not required to give anything in return. She was in learning mode—hanging around the office, picking up knowledge, getting a feel for how things are done. Now she’s a full-fledged employee, with a long list of duties and responsibilities. More than that—she’s been made a partner in the company, fully responsible to make the enterprise work.

She’s delighted. She threw a sumptuous party for her friends and family. We feasted, sang and danced, and celebrated the event as the happiest day of her life to date.

It may be that life as a free lunch has its attractions. Very quickly, though, it becomes tedious and meaningless, forcing the free luncher to work harder and harder at all the contrivances that pump artificial meaning into life. But the fun leaks out faster than the most vigorous pumper can pump, leaving one deflated and defeated.

That’s why we Jews don’t throw retirement parties. Instead, we celebrate the day that we’re handed the big fat book filled with duties and obligations, and the ID tag that reads “Fully Responsible Member.” Because we know that there is nothing more gratifying than being given a life that is truly our own.

Yanki Tauber served as editor of Chabad.org
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Shoshanna Pa-17110 July 22, 2015

:) That was a really cool story though. I loved it. Reply

Anonymous CA October 13, 2013

I love this! I might even incorporate some of this into my Bat Mitzvah speech! Reply

S T Taiwan October 5, 2013

A great article and inspiration to this generation.
I am a Chinese, and I have seen more young Chinese people have been asking for more respect and freedom from our society, yet they are not willing to take their responsibility as they should.
It's a great article to share with the younger generation. Reply

Moshe October 4, 2013

Sounds inspiring, but what about those kids who were initially given much less than what you put as "everything from above", let alone singing and dancing at their bat/bar mitzvah parties. I mean those who are painfully getting through in their true jewish lives having to somehow cope with their secular identity at the same time. You gave your readers an ideal model of how things must look but what kind of an ID tag would you hang to the above kind of kids? Reply

Moussia Belinsky Baltimore, MD September 30, 2013

love it! I love the parable, it's so true! Reply

Leah NYC, NY April 6, 2011

WOW! I really like this article, and it was cool to think how the story you told was so much like what is really happening! I never thought of it that way before. Also, to Leah, my name is Leah and I'm 11!! Mazal Tov! Reply

PENNY WEEKS GIBRALTAR, EUROPE via chabadidaho.com October 15, 2004

GET A LIFE The article Get a Life was one of the best articles I have read in a long time.

Thank you, Reply

rrh October 14, 2004

Leah Knowledge alters what we seek
As well as what we find
(Freda Adler)

Mazel Tov, Leah!

PS. Good article. Well written and interesting. Reply

Helga Hudspeth October 13, 2004

To Leah, mainly This is a great article. I love the entirety, but in particular the conversation part. What an interesting way to talk of pre-bat (or bar) mitzvah times and then of the time when "the party is over."

I don't know if this article was written at this time or in the past. But there is that picture of a very clean-cut and lovely young girl - and no copyright. So -- Mazel Tov, Leah!!! I wish you all good things, especially a lifelong and very close relationship with the Boss, the one with the capital B. Reply

Cynthia Leominster, MA October 12, 2004

This is great What a good, informative article! I am Roman Catholic -- learning more and more about the Jewish faith! This article is so well written and the point is very poignant. We do indeed get a free ride when we are young....would that other cultures around the world had such a rite of passage for their young! With the exception of Bar/Bat Mitzvah and the Hispanic celebration of quinceaera (when a Hispanic female has her coming out party when she turns 15), no other culture in the US or the Western world has a rite of passage to mark the end of childhood. So sad, too....psychologically, our young need such lines of demarcation! Reply

Anonymous Brooklyn, NY October 11, 2004

How beautiful! I am sending this to my daughter. Reply

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