YESTERDAY AFTERNOON, another of my daughters became bat mitzvah. Here is the blessing I gave her.
"In the parasha you’re reading today (Parashat Vayera, which begins at Genesis 18), angels appear three times: first, in the form of what seem to be three men delivering a message from God that Avraham and Sarah will improbably have a child; second, as God’s eyes and ears on the ground, trying to find enough good people to save Sodom and Gomorrah; and, third, as Isaac’s rescuer, who, on behalf of God, steps in just before Avraham sacrifices his only son.
"There are many kinds of angels –- or melachim –- in the Torah, but most have the same attributes of the angels we read about in this parasha; they have the qualities of both God and humans. They straddle two worlds –- the “real” world that we mortals inhabit and a godly world, about which we can only speculate.
"At this moment in your life, as you become a bat mitzvah, one part of you is still firmly planted in the world of childhood; the other is stepping into adulthood. As you stand in these two worlds, you are a melacha of sorts.
"I don’t believe that one suddenly becomes an adult as soon as she utters some ancient words from a scroll of parchment. It doesn’t happen like that. For some, that process takes a long time; there are plenty of people, well past the age of 13, who still have both feet stuck in childhood. For others, it happens too quickly and absolutely, and they have long left their childhood selves behind.
"The best case scenario, I think, is to keep a part of you in worlds of both adulthood and childhood. To hold on to the curiosity, energy and exuberance of childhood; and to embrace the responsibilities and opportunities of adulthood.
"In so many ways, you occupy those two worlds without any apparent effort or self consciousness, at least as far as I can tell. It seems to come naturally to you.
"I saw this about two months ago when I was dropping you off for your first day as an assistant in a first-grade class here at the Adat Shalom torah school. As you looked into the classroom, you lit up and said, 'Oh my God, they have Play-Doh!'
"Almost as soon as I said, 'It’s not for you,' you turned to a crying boy, who was tightly holding onto his mother’s leg, terrified to let go and walk into the room without her.
"You bent over and asked the boy, 'Do you want to go with me into the classroom? We can play with the Play-Do.' Much to his mother’s relief, he looked up at you, stopped crying immediately and took your hand, and the two of you walked in the room together.
"I try not to read too much into snapshots in time. But that moment, which lasted no more than about 15 seconds, was a quick flash of what I’ve seen you do over and over: pivot seamlessly between two worlds and lead others across the threshold. A true shalicha, or emissary.
"I don’t doubt that some of that impulse comes from being a middle child. It could be that birth order has a lot to do with shaping you in this way.
"However you acquired it, you have been the shalicha of knowledge when you taught special needs kids and of friendship between the many different communities of people you have come to know. You shuttle easily and enthusiastically among your many different interests: sports, music, school subjects, theater, camp and family.
"So my wish for you is that you continue to play that role of shalicha that seems to come so naturally to you. It will serve you well as you go on in life and explore and inhabit so many different and wonderful worlds. And, like a melacha, an angel, may you serve the world well, too."