As each of her friend’s Bat Mitzvah celebrations moved online, my nearly twelve year old daughter’s heart broke a little bit more. Eventually, my wife and I had to ask ourselves, “How can we make something special out of this depressing situation?”

A Zoom-Mitzvah was not for us. Yes, it puts the safety of our vulnerable loved ones first, and that is noble. It allows the geographically distant to be present, and that is convenient. Perhaps most importantly, a Zoom-Mitzvah celebrates a welcome departure from ostentatious parties detached from religious ritual with a return of emphasis on the service, and that is necessary.

But we are Orthodox in our religious practice. For us, there is no liturgical ritual associated with a bat mitzvah. Which means the window for creativity is wide open.

So we looked back. Six years ago, my wife and I planted the seeds Because being Jewish is not about being risk free—it’s about being risk smart.of our daughter’s maturing Jewishness with a message for her at the end of preschool graduation ceremony. We chose a Torah passage about the importance of music in Jewish practice: “All that has breath/spirit shall praise G‑d!”

We also wrote to her the following:

“You are such a special little soul whose prayer comes from a holy place. We know you will use this siddur to awaken many souls to join you from now through your bat-mitzvah and beyond.”

The description we captured of her then as a pre-schooler rang just as true today. And re-visiting her first siddur offered a moment of inspiration, where it became clear what we had to do. We had to celebrate our daughter's bat mitzvah with an in-person, multi-shift, socially distanced, backyard, around the campfire kumzits.

And it was magical.

We re-discovered the immense significance of non-liturgical We re-discovered the immense significance of non-liturgical rituals that are at the heart of our communal life. Like the deeply soulful act of dropping off a prepared dish of food.rituals that are at the heart of our communal life. Like the deeply soulful act of dropping off a prepared dish of food, so easily taken for granted.

So many of our guests expressed the altruistic joy they found in being able to once again prepare a dish—under extra COVID sanitary precautions—to celebrate a simcha. Which is to say nothing of the equally heartfelt pleasure our guests found in being nourished by the familiar tastes of other households, tastes that were being forgotten, now that Shabbat meal hosting had become forbidden.

Furthermore, taking our cue from the Jewish Proverb instructing parents to “educate a child according to their unique path" we knew that our musical-theatre-nerd daughter's entrance into adult Yiddishkeit had to involve her hearing the passionate singing of accomplished artists. And right now, singing is something that is not allowed in Toronto shuls. But in our backyard, she and her friends were beaming ear to ear as they listened to nigunim sung by our Chasidic troubadour, Yehoshua Lavner.

What we didn't expect was how many would express that the music once viewed as background was now a treasured experience in the foreground. The performance of live spiritual music was so enchanting, that when Lavner sang the Rebbe's nigun, The Jewish people have often been referred to as stiff-necked. But I think that in contemporary language, this character trait might be described as “resilient.”people down the street stopped to listen as well — we received happy calls from neighbors the next day as opposed to noise complaints.

My takeaway from the weekend is that conceiving of new manners to experience the physical, tactile connection of a lived Judaism should be seen as a core religious obligation as we shape our post-COVID lives. Finding ways to share food is something that needs to be innovatively reconceived, but not discarded. And live music is something that cannot be lost as we engage in respectful distancing practices.

Because being Jewish is not about being risk free—it’s about being risk smart. Our community left my daughter's bat mitzvah feeling inspired by the sounds, smells and tastes of the non-liturgical rituals which make our religious life vibrant.

The Jewish people have often been referred to as stiff-necked. But I think that in contemporary language, this character trait might be described as “resilient.” “Stiff-necked” suggests stubborn and unchanging. Our people have been very good at changing.

We must actively figure out what post-COVID Judaism should We must actively figure out what post-COVID Judaism should look like. The choices we make now and over the next few months are likely to have a lasting impact on the next generation of Jews.look like. The choices we make now and over the next few months are likely to have a lasting impact on the next generation of Jews. Now is the time for a period of experimental spirituality to sustain a sense of meaning in the uncertain new normal.

We need to approach this challenge from the depth of our souls…because living through a pandemic presents complex challenges and Judaism demands we live to the fullest of our being.