The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah


Posted in holidays, philosophizing, rituals, soulfish, spirituality by Juliet on March 31, 2010

Delicious...and dangerous?

It is a Passover seder tradition to set out a cup of wine for the prophet Elijah (Eliyahu Hanavi.) The rabbis could not agree whether we drink four cups of wine or five during the seder. They came up with a quintessentially Jewish compromise: drink four, and set out the fifth cup for Elijah, who will tell us the answer when he returns to herald the coming of the Messiah.

Fairy? Faerie?

Our older daughter, Eva, lost her first tooth during the summer between kindergarten and first grade. It was spectacularly bad timing that we happened to be reading the Spiderwick books, which feature evil fairies.

“Maybe the tooth fairy will come tonight!” we told her as we showed her how to put her tooth under the pillow.

“You mean she’ll be here, like in our house?” Eva asked. “She’ll see my room?” Even finding a golden dollar coin under her pillow couldn’t relieve her distress at having her personal space invaded by a possibly malevolent three inch tall creature with magical powers and spiky fingernails. (In one of the Spiderwick books, fairies tie a girl to her bed by her hair as she sleeps, as a “prank.”)

Jane, age four, reacted this Passover to the story of Elijah about the same way.

She kept asking, as it grew darker and darker that night, “When is that guy coming?” Two days later she was still worrying.

I tried soothing her.

“He’s not a real, actual guy. He’s not going to walk in.” (Though Orthodox Jews around the globe prayed very fervently at their seder tables this Passover for exactly that thing to happen.)

“Is he pretend?” she asked.

“Well, not really pretend.” Nobody else at the table came to my aid, and to make matters worse, Eva was listening too, in that pretending-not-to-listen way that third graders do.

“He’s more like an idea that we like to think about.”

As the words were coming from my mouth, I thought (silently in my own head, of course): “Like the tooth fairy.”

Whenever people want to point out the ridiculousness of faith in something you can’t see, they say, “So you mean you believe in the tooth fairy? What about the Easter bunny?”

And of course I don’t believe in those things. (And not just because I’m Jewish.) And I do believe in a God that I can’t see, hear, or touch.

I sense God’s presence, and I know. And it’s not the wonderment of a child finding gifts on Christmas morning or digging into the jelly beans at Easter.

It’s what some would call “blind faith,” and though it may be blind, it still is faith.