Hooray! I met with Rabbi Chester this morning and he approved my d’var Torah, the talk I’ll give on my Torah portion.

Okay — as my friend Sara K. said later in the day — it was not real likely that, given my writing skills, he was going to toss my speech in the trash. But still, I was nervous. I felt like a 13-year-old watching the teacher read her composition.

I had struggled a little bit writing it, mostly with my own expectations. Certainly the d’var Torah of a 53-year-old should be far better than that of a 13-year-old. And given that I’ve been involved in this Bat Mitzvah process for more than a year, I felt that it had to be REALLY GOOD. No, not just good — outstanding.

Part of me also felt a compulsion to make some sort of grand statement about my own beliefs — a “This I Believe” about the possibility of being both spiritual and an atheist, or about how West Bank settlements are an outrageous violation of Jewish ethics and morality, or some such jeremiad.

I managed to fight off that urge.  A d’var Torah, after all, is supposed to be about the Torah portion, not about me. (Oh, you mean, everything in life isn’t all about me? I’m crushed.) But that still left me feeling that my drash had to be outstanding. Brilliant. Harvard caliber. Or — since 53 > 4 x13 — at least four times as good as a 13-year-old’s.

Fortunately, all these years of being a parent have taught me something, which is the concept of “good enough.” If you have raised children within the past decade or two, you’re probably heard of “good-enough parenting” — an antidote to oppressive yuppie perfectionism where parents (usually moms) flagellate themselves for sins such as bringing Trader Joe cookies rather than home-baked ones to the class potluck.

I am used to being a good-enough mother, not a perfect mother. So rather than write the perfect d’var Torah, I decided to write a “good-enough” d’var Torah.

That worked. I got it written. Rabbi Chester seemed to like it. He even laughed a couple of times. (Thankfully, at the places where he was supposed to laugh.) He handed it back to me and said it was good to go.

Whew! Now if only he were a literary agent reading my novel manuscript….


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4 Responses to “Approved!”

  1. Tali Says:

    I bet its great! What is your parsha? Hope you’re gonna post it after the big event!

  2. Ilana DeBare Says:

    Thanks Tali. My parsha is Vayakhel. I will certainly post my drash here after the service. I’ve also written a couple of blog posts (most recently two at the end of October) on Vayakhel — there’s a link to one of them in the above post.

  3. Linda K. Wertheimer Says:

    Mazal tov, Ilana. So did you stray away from anything personal in your Torah portion? I think it’s more meaningful if we find a way to connect the portion to something in our lives.
    When I celebrated my adult bat mitzvah at 41 in 2006, my parsha was about the circle of mourners that was detailed in the Torah. I used that to give a speech about the great structure Judaism set up for grief, a structure built upon much of the Torah. But I also tied it to my own experiences, remarking how much it would’ve helped to use that structure after my brother’s death at age 23 – if I had known it existed.
    Anyway, looking forward to hearing more about it!

    • Ilana DeBare Says:

      Linda, that sounds like a wonderful drash. Did you turn it into an essay or post it on your blog? I seem to recall reading something by you along those lines.

      I do have a little bit of personal stuff in there, but I refrained from making it The Ultimate Statement of Everything Ilana Believes. :-)

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