This Sunday, my daughter will stand on the bimah in the magnificent Magnin Sanctuary on the Glazer Campus of Wilshire Boulevard Temple with 10 other teens as they take part in our Confirmation Service. As a mom, I could not be more proud. Confirmation is a relatively new invention for Jews. It wasn’t until the late 1800s in Germany that Jews began to celebrate this milestone. The ritual was established in part because there was a thought that perhaps 13 (the age of b’nei mitzvah) was a bit early for young people to truly understand what it means to be a Jewish adult.
This weekend, as we head toward this milestone for my family and for the other 10 families in our congregation who chose to take part this year, we are also approaching the Torah portion, Bamidbar. Bamidbar means “in the wilderness.” Our ancestors left what they knew and traveled in uncertainty. I feel like we are in a similar situation right now - we are collectively traveling in uncertainty. In actuality, as human beings, we are constantly Bamidbar, in the wilderness. We have no guarantees. An important piece of the wilderness story of our ancestors is that they were not traveling alone. We are not able to fix the world for these young adults, to pull them out of the wilderness that is life. I hope that they learned through their time together that they are not alone and that their Jewish community is a source of connectedness in a time of isolation, loneliness, and disparity.
The Confirmation ritual was created to be celebrated alongside the holiday of Shavuot - the moment in time when we recognize the gift of Torah. In Jewish theological parlance, we speak about the giving of Torah using the word “revelation.” I love this word in the context of the Confirmation service. First of all, it is a joyful experience to think about our kids as having stood alongside us, our ancestors, and all the Jews who have yet to be born, as the Torah was revealed to them at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Furthermore, I just took a walk down the hallways of the Resnick campus and looked at the photos of many years of confirmands who came before. As the teens ascend the bimah on Sunday, I will envision those people standing shoulder to shoulder with our teens and remember that the traditions dear to those who came before this group will be carried forward to generations yet to come. Our ancestors didn’t do it alone, neither did we, and our children and their children should be blessed with the revelation that while they are on a journey and path of their own, they don’t need to walk that path by themselves.
Cantor Kerith Spencer-Shapiro
You can watch this year's confirmation on Sunday, June 5 at 4:30 p.m. on this link.