On Turning Twelve: A Big Birthday for a Young Woman I Know

IMG_1436There are twelve tribes of Israel, twelve months in a year, twelve eggs in a carton. There were twelve loaves of show-bread on the shulchan (table) in the Beit Hamikdash, the Temple in Jerusalem. This last one is a particularly good twelve for my soon to be twelve year old, because Emanuelle loves baking bread for Shabbat. Her favorite steps are the egg wash and the braiding. Watching you doing this work of art is wonder to behold. You take it seriously as your special task, while still having fun with it as a labor of love. You like it to be neat and precise, but you neither want nor expect each and every braid of each and every loaf to look the same. You have started to experiment with different types of braids—4 and 6–enjoying the challenge to beautify this mitzvah in new ways each week.

While your Gregorian birthdate is June 6th your Hebrew birthdate is Shavuot the 6th and 7th day of Sivan (your Hebrew middle name). I’m fond of saying your brother is a late birthday present and you are an early Father’s Day gift. Emmy, I know this is a bittersweet birthday for you. Your mother and I know you’d like to remain in Minnesota with your friends and continue with things as they are now. I know that the move to Kentucky is not the future you wanted or expected. You’re a big girl now, a young woman, becoming more mature every day. I am not going to lie to you and say that this is all going to fun, easy and smooth. You’re too smart for that. I can honestly tell you, however, that parts of it can be fun, elements of it might come easily, and aspects of it could be smooth. The psychologist and survivor, Victor Frankl, would say that while the circumstances are not of your choosing you can choose how to respond to them. This is a change and a challenge with the potential to fortify your capacity to deal with the many changes and challenges that life will undoubtedly bring.

One of the things I admire most about you, dear daughter, is your persistence. Whether its homework or artwork, violin or volleyball, you show true persistence. None of these activities is fun, easy or smooth 100 percent of the time, but you persistently find the fun and embrace the challenge within them. My beautiful baker, you can take up the dough of life, happiness and sadness, delight and disappointment and braid it into something delectable. The bread you bake, the loaves you bake and share with others each week are integral to who and what you are.


Given the opportunity to re-live any day in her life, Thornton Wilder’s Emily, in his classic play Our Town, chooses her twelfth birthday. In doing so, she is confronted with the joys and excitement, the arguments and frustration, the magical and mundane moments that fill this experience we call life. I know I’ve already ensured that your twelfth birthday won’t be perfect. With the upcoming changes and challenges in the back (or, more likely, the front) of your mind, it will not be exactly what you wanted or expected. I’m sorry about that. Really I am. But it can and it will be a beautiful, wonderful and happy birthday if you want it to be. I love you so much and I look forward to the many adventures in our future.

In the words of Marcia Falk that Mommy and I add to your Shabbat blessing every week: “Be Who You Are And May You Be Blessed in All That You Are.”

Straight From The Heart,


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