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A Grain of Sand

A Grain of Sand

My Daughter's Bat Mitzvah

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My daughter was a grain of sand. I watched as she twirled with her arms raised high, as she brought them down, leapt up and swooped low. I watched her stand upright, her hands drawing circles in the air, then she bent down again and held her palms out. Upwards she turned them, then down in a flash. With five other friends, she windmilled around as fast as the breeze. They fleeted around, one after the other, earth colored skirts billowing behind. My daughter's arms arched up once again high and her gold colored cape formed a cloud round her head. In an instant the music changed the breeze into a wind and gusts of a storm blew the grains from side to side. With small steps the girls moved in circles and rings, until the wind ended the game. Exhausted, the girls fell in a soft curve of gold, of earth and of joy. The last notes of music waned into silence.

I thought of the toil and prayers that each had dedicated to her daughter I wiped away a stray tear and tried to catch Gila's eye as she stood up, exuberant and proud, on this special night. Hours of practice and sweat had preceded this performance in honor of the bat mitzvah of the seventh grade girls. I glanced quickly at the other mothers and grandmothers seated in the hall. I wondered if they, too, were thinking of the tremendous effort that had gone into this show. Then I thought of the toil, tears and prayers that each mother had dedicated to her daughter— making it possible for her to reach this point.

A young girl's bat mitzvah is a milestone in her life. A milestone that should be imbued with a message that will escort her into her future. This was the goal tonight. The girls filed off the stage and a screen was lowered. The words "As long as you put forward your hand…" were painted in beige and brown under a stone arch surrounded with bright yellow sunflowers. The message being imparted was reinforced: we must be involved in the process.

Before this moving dramatization had started, the teacher of one of the three classes that made up the seventh grade stream had given an introductory speech. She told the story of Rebbe Chaninah ben Dosa and after her clear explanation, the dance and song of the dramatization by over one hundred girls was clear and meaningful.

I watched as Rebbe Chaninah ben Dosa, a sage from the times of the first Beis Hamikdash, walked out into the desert surrounding his village. His friends and neighbors were all busy preparing contributions to take up to Jerusalem. Some were leading sheep and oxen, destined to be sacrificed, onto the dusty path that led into the hills, but Rebbe Chaninah ben Dosa was so poor that he had not a single item to contribute. Saddened and disheartened, the sage wandered the desert sands.

G‑d opened the gates of HeavenA huge rock, a painted Styrofoam block with irregular protrusions and indentations, was lifted onto the stage. Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa stopped to admire its bronze and copper sheen. Then he decided that he would take this stone to Jerusalem as his contribution to the Beis Hamikdash. He searched for workers and found five men who were prepared to carry the stone up to Jerusalem. The costumed girls demanded their high fee of one hundred zuzim. Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa looked for the money to pay them, but he could not find it. The girls tossed their heads and walked away. Then G‑d sent him five angles disguised as men. He asked the girls dressed in white if they were prepared to transport the stone for him and they agreed to do it for only five coins as long as Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa would put forward his own hand and help to carry it. The angels and Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa began to pick up the stone, but instantaneously they found themselves standing in Jerusalem. When Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa wanted to pay the men, he could not find them. He wandered round the empty stage looking for the workers, and eventually went to the Sanhedrin (the High Court, comprised of seventy Torah scholars) and told them what had happened. The Sages there told him that it was apparently angels who had carried his stone to Jerusalem. With this, the one hundred bat mitzvah girls came onto the stage to sing. Their voices harmonized the message of the play: we must be involved in the process.

As they sang, I pondered the message that their teacher had eloquently given over before the start of the play. Why had Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa chosen a heavy stone as his contribution and why had the angles agreed to transport it only on condition that he help to carry it? She explained clearly: Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa knew that if he wanted to build something spiritual and true, then he had to be prepared to put in tremendous toil and effort. Once he showed that he was willing to do this by being prepared to help carry the load, G‑d opened the gates of Heaven and sent him Divine assistance.

The sweet voices of the girls filled the hall, and my heart. I focused on the message of the night. I prayed that all the women in the hall, the grandmothers, the mothers and the bat mitzvah girls who were just starting out on their road to womanhood would always recall, with much clarity, that to build something spiritual and true requires effort and that G‑d will surely send assistance as long as we put forward our hands first.

Rhona Lewis was born and grew up in Kenya. She moved to Israel in 1991 and now lives in Beit Shemesh, where she divides her time between caring for her large, happy family and writing. She is currently working on a book of her memoirs.
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