Eitz Chayim - Getting Cozy with Torah

adult bar mitzvah adult bat mitzvah hebrica jewish ritual item judaica synagogue art torah cover

Editor's Note: The "Torah cozy" described below is called a bein gavra, which means "between the people." Thank you to Mark Langer for helping.

A dozen years ago, four women became adult bat mitzvah ~ banot mitzvah ~ at my synagogue, Congregation Micah. We all came to do that for different reasons... I was new to Judaism, one had a bat mitzvah as a child that was unfulfilling, one never had one, and one wanted to redo hers ~ and pick a new Hebrew name ~ because she had survived a deadly illness and wanted to rededicate herself to Judaism in gratitude. 

As an erstwhile b'nai mitzvah tutor, I have attended quite a few bar and bat mitzvahs, 26 in one year alone. They are all sacred and sweet in their own way. Having come to the Torah as an adult, I do wonder what the 12- and 13-year-olds will remember about the big day. Will it be the nervousness? The party? The checks? The mitzvah project? I've seen a range of experiences, from the funny presentation of a "barely used" Tanach (he was kidding) by a grandfather to the entire congregation rooting for the severely austistic child for whom the event was a monumental effort. 

torah cover hebrica judaic artFor myself, and I feel pretty sure about my other three classmates, it was one of the best days of my life. To finally swing on the tallit, and to read from the Torah scroll an ancient language I had never laid eyes on until two years earlier, the big party, the assemblage of friends, and a proud mother... I may be old enough now I forget what I just got up out of my chair to do, but I remember that day as if it were yesterday.

Our adult banot mitzvah class decided to give a gift of "Torah cozies" to the congregation, those ornamental cloths you see laid over a Torah scroll while it is out of its cover. (If anyone knows what this sacred ritual item is called, please comment below; we have never been able to find out.) One of our group, Candace, is a specialist in fabrics, so she gathered rich silks, satin, velvet and wool. I did the design, to match the creative, modern vibe of our Torah covers, and Barbara, Candace, and Helene sewed it. I am terrible with needlework. The resulting piece was a lasting tribute to our year of study together, coming to the Torah, eitz chayim hi ... a tree of life.


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  • Barbara Baer on

    Thanks for the memories Kim. I don’t think I will ever forget that day either.

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