Archives for May 2012

Swimming In the Ocean: An Adult Bat Mitzvah’s Journey

Swimming In the Ocean: An Adult Bat Mitzvah’s Journey

Last weekend, I successfully checked off an item on my “bucket list:” to learn Hebrew and become a Bat Mitzvah.  As a part of the service, the Bat Mitzvah is asked to (a) read the Torah and (b) interpret or “teach” what this particular portion of the Torah means to her.  I’ll be honest, I am more of an “off-of-the-cuff” speaker so, in cases when I have no clue how to do something, I turn to the internet for support and googled “Adult Bar Mitzvah speeches.”

There are quite a few sites offering the opportunity to pay someone to write the speech for me.  I didn’t want a professional writer to do the work for me.  Instead, I needed a proverbial “kick in the pants” to get the creative writing juices flowing.   I found some excerpts from a number of people who apparently faced (and survived) the same dilemma in the past.  I was so grateful to these souls for posting their speeches that I swore, once the Bat Mitzvah chaos had passed, that I, too, would post my words and”Pay-It-Forward”: I hope that my words inspire someone else with his/her speech. Good Luck. 

Swimming In The Ocean

Wow!  Standing with you this morning, I find that I am humbled by the generosity and love of the many people who helped and supported me along my journey to become a Bat Mitzvah.  It has taken me twenty-seven years to achieve this milestone and I would like to offer a brief commentary on my adventures getting to the Bima.

My journey to learn Hebrew and become a Bat Mitzvah is a lot like taking my first steps in the ocean on a warm summer day: filled with some trepidation (will the water be too cold?) (Am I crazy to learn Hebrew as an adult?)  As well as a desire to retreat to my warm towel (or the life I knew before I decided to take these first steps) but somehow having faith that there is something fantastic waiting for me past the breaker points—perhaps I can become part of something significant and important.

Although both of my biological parents were raised in Jewish households, our faith was not necessarily its foundation.  By the time I was five years old, my parents were divorced and my stepfather and mother agreed that participating in family centric activities (like sailing) was the key to our family’s well being.  And like the majority of the people I knew growing up, we celebrated the secular traditions of Christmas and Easter.

To borrow a famous line from author A.J. Jacobs, you could say that, growing up “I was Jewish the way Olive Garden is Italian. That is to say – not so much.”  Yes, I did attend Jewish camps, went to some Jewish heritage classes, took classes at the JCC and learned a very little Hebrew.  But I was just never all that taken by the idea of practicing any organized religion. I loved learning about them, but was not too committed in the practice.  There were cultural aspects of Judaism that were attractive, but they often came with High Holiday Services and Shabbat dinners. For whatever reason, none of that was for me.

So why the sudden change in attitude?  Why invest so much time studying something that, at one point in my life, I was quite apathetic?   My immediate answer always centers on the same two words: Family and Leadership. When our daughter, K, was born, I suddenly felt as if I was part of something bigger than myself and had a moral responsibility to help to shape my child’s spiritual growth.  I wanted K to have memories and family traditions.  Many of these are routed in the practice of an organized religion.  For K to become a fully realized person, it was important that she be exposed to her history including her faith.  As her mother and her primary female role model, I needed to share the importance of these learning’s.  But I did not feel capable of giving her this gift because I had not learned about it myself.  Suddenly learning about Judaism and Hebrew had greater significance in my life.

So I stepped gently into the cold water and started the journey. At first, I fought myself and doubted my “stay-with-it-ness.”  After all, no one was putting me up to taking Hebrew.  If I didn’t go to class, there would be no repercussions.  But images of my great-grandparents and grandparents kept flashing through my mind as if they were telling me that my embracing my faith was important—to my spiritual and personal growth.  They lead the way for our family’s successes; it was now time for me to pay it forward.

Elie Wiesel once said, “There is a divine beauty in learning…to learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth.  Others have been here before me and I walk in their footsteps.  The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples.  I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests.  And so are you.”

Mr. Wiesel’s words have always resonated with me.  My portion of the Torah focuses on the Levites and their duty to serve, maintain and protect the Ark of the Covenant.  Significant responsibilities.  Unlike the tribes of Israel, God did not award this group of people land nor were they asked to participate in the military.  The Levites were not included in the census; they were not counted.  Yet for their services and sacrifices, the Levites were seen as great leaders, pillars of the community and great teachers. It was their responsibility to maintain and enforce God’s rules and recall those that came before them. The Levites were commanded to look beyond themselves and see the importance of the greater community.  As a mother, I also feel this great sense of responsibility to serve and protect what is holiest. My ark?  My child and a commitment to the continuation of the Jewish faith in spite of those forces that threaten its extinction.

Looking back, I don’t think my 13-year-old self could have understood and appreciated the significance of these commandments.  As a more mature Bat Mitzvah, I have the benefit of life experiences and perhaps a more sophisticated understanding of the world and my role in it.  In any case, I have definitely gained a greater level of spiritual and self-awareness than I would have as a teenager.

Today, I have achieved a life goal.  Ad, I and, particularly, K, were dogmatic in their support. K has been my greatest cheerleader.  Almost daily she reminds me how proud she is that I did not give up on my dream when I struggled to master a particular prayer or Hebrew word.  Both Ad and my mother-in-law have never questioned my conviction and doggedness to learn Hebrew and become a Bat Mitzvah despite my frequent outbursts of doubt and frustration.  Finally, I am indebted to my Hebrew Instructor who has literally held my hand over the past few months encouraging me and helping me develop confidence in my leadership skills and style.

For almost two years, at least once a week, I have come to the synagogue to study Hebrew and prepare for this day.  Recently K and I attended a service in the Chapel.  As we read the Siddur, I realized that I was reading the Hebrew and not the transliteration.  Sure, I was going slowly and stumbled on the pronunciation of some of the words.  But I was reading and I was leading.

For the first time in my Jewish faith, I felt like I was swimming in the ocean of faith.


Five Reasons To Cheat On Your Old Toothbrush

Five Reasons To Cheat On Your Old Toothbrush

Oral B Professional 5000

I am like most women I know when it comes to making the health care decisions in the family: everyone looks to me.   My husband always says it’s because I am the one with the healthcare degree but I think that’s just an excuse.    So, anything related to health (including dental care) immediately becomes a “pink task” and is lobbed into my proverbial court. When Dad Central asked my husband to review Oral B’s new toothbrush, he asked me to give it a try (since I am the one with all of the dental health problems in the family.)

It just so happened, when the box arrived, that I had just  seen  my buddy, the dentist for a cleaning and <gasp> a new filling.  When I I told him about the Oral-B Professional Care SmartSeries 5000 trial, he was enthusiastic for me to try it because it would definitely keep me on the right track to exceptional oral health and leave me with the feeling of having a professional cleaning every day.  He even suggested that K, my daughter, brush our teeth together so we could take advantage of the fun timer.

So I raced home and immediately opened the package to discover what was inside.  My first thought?  This toothbrush and “gadgetry” is really overwhelming!  There, laying in a beautifully packaged box was the new Oral-B ProfessionalCare SmartSeries 5000 with SmartGuide. I zoned in on the SmartGuide because it was digitally smiling (yes, smiling) at me as if I did something right by opening the box.

First, this is not your mother’s electric or power toothbrush.  The Oral-B Professional Care SmartSeries 5000 has all of the accouterments needed to maintain exceptional oral health.  It has multiple brush heads and a “state of the art ergonomic design.”  It has a really funky portable charger, travel toothbrush case, charging station, SmartGuide, and a rechargeable battery so it’s pretty easy with which to travel.  Still, I am not so convinced that I will take all of it to Africa with me this summer, despite its portability.

I have to admit that I was a bit overwhelmed with the huge  and extremely detailed manual that accompanies my new oral care “friend.”  Perhaps because I am truly a “Type A” personality, I sort of skimmed the manual and focused in on the highlights like the wireless SmartGuide which keeps you brushing for the mandatory 2 minutes by displaying a timer and a guide to help you brush the different quadrants of your mouth effectively.  Like most electric toothbrushes every 30 seconds you will feel a pulse indicating that you are supposed to change quadrants of your mouth.  But what we (K and I) really enjoyed was testing how the SmartGuide changed if I altered the pressure that I was applying to the brush.  If I pressed too hard, a “frowney” face would appear on the guide as a reminder to lighten up on the pressure.  And, when we finished brushing the 4 quadrants, the SmartGuide displayed a smiley face.  Yes, that type of positive reinforcement does impact my willingness to hang in there for the full 2 minutes of brushing.

Love the Happy Face!

Some other reasons for my newly acquired love of a toothbrush?

1.) So easy to set up and break down.  It took K and me two minutes to pull everything out of the box and start charging the toothbrush.  After a few hours, we were raring to go.

2.) A variety of choices in brushing modes: the user can choose whether or not she wants a regular daily clean, a sensitive one, whitening, massage and deep clean.  I have to admit, I stuck with the sensitive mode given my recent dental work.  Now that I have recovered, I think I will opt for the deep clean and try to avoid future work at the dentist’s office.

3) An o overwhelming number of pulsations and oscillations per minute: 40,000 pulsations and 8,800 oscillations per minute.  My face cleaner doesn’t even oscillate that much!

4) You feel like your teeth really got clean!  Yes, I still floss and rinse with mouthwash but at least when I am done committing the 2 minutes morning and night, I feel like I accomplished something!

5) Despite the fact that I am not taking my  new tooth brush to Africa with me, it is made for traveling.  The travel case is cool (so my room mates at the different conferences I attend won’t be able to make nasty comments about my toothbrush) and it has a great (and compact) portable charger.

Thanks to my husband and to Dad Central, K and my teeth are cleaner than ever. I have benefited from the whole  Oral-B Professional Care SmartSeries 5000 package, my teeth and gums are healthier than ever and she has fallen in love with the SmartGuide and can’t wait to use it with me.

Are you interested in trying the  Oral-B Professional Care SmartSeries 5000?  Oral-B is offering a $10 mail-in rebate on select power toothbrushes April 29th through June 16, 2012.   Please visit for more information)



Just A Quick Note: I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour by Dad Central Consulting on behalf of Oral-B and received a product sample to facilitate my review and a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.