Holy Bat Mitzvah

In reflection of the one year anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah I feel gratitude and remember and treasure the celebration with family and friends. I would like to share this D’var Torah with you:

I am reading from Parashat K’doshim Leviticus 19:1-8, using the Plaut translation of Torah.

The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, the Eternal your God, am holy. You shall each revere your mother and your father, and keep My sabbaths: I the Eternal am your God. Do not turn to idols or make molten gods for yourselves: I am your God. When you sacrifice an offering of well-being to the Eternal, sacrifice it so that it may be accepted on your behalf. It shall be eaten on the day you sacrifice it, or on the day following; but what is left by the third day must be consumed in fire. If it should be eaten on the third day, it is an offensive thing, it will not be acceptable. And one who eats of it shall bear the guilt for having profaned what is sacred to the Eternal; that person shall be cut off from kin.

Leviticus 19:1-8. 

Shabbat Shalom, Good Morning. 

I feel so blessed to be here with all of you today, my family and friends. Thank you mom, Frank and Mary Pat, Jen and Jeff, Kim and Evan for being part of this journey. Helena and Craig, Michelle and Arie and your family for standing up with me today and always inviting me to the table. Adriana, my chaplain sister, thank you for the beautiful centerpieces.  And to all my chaplain friends who lifted me up with their warm blessings and guidance.

I also want to wave to my friends and family out there drinking their morning coffee and streaming in their jammies, Eric, Ken and Cathy, and all my nieces and nephews in Florida.

Wow! It’s my Bat Mitzvah Day. I am finally here.  I also want to thank Rabbi David, Rabbi Disick, Cantor Neil, Debbie, Ruth, Steve and Judy, Ira, Liz, and Tula for making this all possible.  It has been about 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. I am home, sharing this beautiful moment with all of you. 

You shall be holy…

What does it mean to be holy?

Is it checking off boxes of the things that you think you are supposed to do?

Or perhaps how you think you are supposed to do them?

Or is it just about following the rules?

Something inside tells me that it is spiritually far more deeper than that.

That’s not to say that rules and guidelines are not important.  They assist in establishing a foundation of practice. This I believe allows space for transcendence to a higher level of consciousness, a sacred space of holiness. 

You shall love Adonai, your God with all your heart and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. 

It is a template for embodying God’s holiness.  A covenantal relationship of love, compassion, and kindness. A love that is mirrored to and from God and expanded out into the world.  It is a blueprint for how to treat others with dignity and respect with an expectation of reciprocity. That is what keeps us holy. We need more love, peace, and kindness in this world. 

Our Shabbat service is a living example of how the holiness codes are woven throughout the liturgy of worship. And the songs of prayer are a celebration of love, peace and kindness.

Rabbi David describes the holiness code as the heart of Torah. K’doshim is read every year at Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and it serves as a guide for how one spiritually lives in a community. 

Speaking of community, I joined Temple Emanuel in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic.  It was a way to spiritually connect during a time of isolation and significant loss. Working as a Clinical Chaplain for Serenity Hospice put me in places and circumstances that I could not even have imagined. Tuning in to services on Friday nights, Torah Study on Saturday Morning, Talmud Study with Rabbi Eron on Wednesday, and the Intro to Judaism Class with Ruth and Rabbi David kept me grounded and able to be of service to others. I am so grateful. 

Keeping the Sabbath …

Do we really allow ourselves to take a day off?

Keeping the Sabbath was just not a part of my usual routine.  In fact, I would go out of my way to pick up extra shifts at the hospital. It was really life changing when I received permission at Shabbat services to slow down. Every week I was encouraged to honor self care and to refrain from over extending myself.  I stopped working 24/7 and felt more at peace.

One of the best Shabbat moments was when there was a pause in the pandemic. We had Torah study at the Temple and it was the first time I was able to meet the people in those zoom squares in person.   Everyone was so welcoming. Rabbi David opened the floor to questions and I asked if he would work with me to become a Bat Mitzvah.

During the summer I took an introductory Hebrew Class on-line and in the fall set up an appointment to meet with Rabbi. I asked about the Bat Mitzvah and was shocked when he said, “Ok let’s pick a date…”

Today is that date April 23, 2022

Revering your Mother and Father…

Mom, thank you for your love and support for my journey, travels to Jerusalem, and for my Bat Mitzvah celebration.

Dad, May your memory be for a blessing on this special day, your birthday.  I feel your presence with me today.

Idols and Molten gods…

While the idols of today are not necessarily molten gods. What do we turn to when alleviating our discomfort in the world? Hollywood, the internet, money, electronic devices? 

What are the things that you cannot live without?

And some of us just step away…

When I met with Rabbi I was given a double Torah portion for today. It’s called Acharei Mot-K’doshim.  It explores the aftermath of the loss of Aaron’s two sons, Nadab and Abihu. It is an invitation to explore grief and unexpected loss.

I have empathy and great compassion for Aaron and for all those who mourn and grieve. I understand what loss feels like having experienced the death of my mother when I was nine years old and the death of my father about 10 years ago.

There were not a lot of resources for grief back then like the ones we have today including the support group here at Temple Emanuel and the beautiful Yizkor service held here today.

Looking back, I felt disconnected from God and my religion. I didn’t understand the language or the service, and I never felt God’s presence in synagogue.

Until I was called.

I will say that God has a sense of humor calling a secular Jewish woman to seminary and chaplaincy. 

It was time to remove my sandals.

There was a pivotal moment about 6 years ago that brought me back to Jewish life.  It was right before Rosh Hashana. I was chaplain on duty at the hospital working on my 3rd Unit of Clinical Pastoral Education and was checking in on a new referral. The patient was busy on the phone and it was really difficult getting into his room. It took about 3 tries. Finally, I was able to talk with him and he just happened to be a Rabbi.  He was an Emeritus Rabbi being visited by the Cantor and Rabbi from his synagogue. 

What was interesting about the encounter was that he was schooling the chaplain. He was asking probing questions wanting to know what kind of chaplain I was and not satisfied by any of the nonsense that I was saying to him. He saw me. I was still passing not identifying with any particular religion during that time. And I really was not sure what I even believed in. I just knew that I felt a connection to something larger than myself.

That was when Rabbi spoke about about spiritual Judaism, Spinoza, Reconstruction, and Renewal. He said, “We are a spirited tribe.” And that was the moment when I heard myself asking him out loud if I was part of the tribe. Rabbi answered, “you never leave the tribe. Even a shunned Spinoza was reconciled in Israel.”

While we were talking a nurse walked in and the Rabbi said to her, “Do you realize that you are walking into sacred space? We have two rabbis, a cantor and a Jewish chaplain here.” It was the first time I was addressed as a Jewish chaplain and there were tears of healing that day.

It was important to me to have this rite of passage here today in the synagogue with my family and friends present. I am very grateful to be in this sacred space standing before you with both my whole and broken pieces in the mishkan. That is what it means to be holy. To be loved by God just as you are.

As I was walking with Rabbi David this week to the sanctuary that he built he introduced me to the new Cantor as a Jew by choice. I immediately replied that I was just a Jew. He stated that all Jews were Jews by choice. 

Upon further reflection that day I heard, “It is not what you are born into but what you live out.”

Shabbat Shalom

About Chaplain Cindy Tanz 3 Articles
Cindy Tanz works as a Clinical Chaplain/Bereavement Coordinator for Serenity Hospice PA in Bensalem PA. She is a member of (CPSP) College of Pastoral Supervision and Psychotherapy and completed (CPE) Clinical Pastoral Education training at RWJ Barnabas Health Hamilton NJ.   Cindy journeys with patients and families of all faiths through end stage disease progression celebrating life, advocating comfort, and acknowledging grief. She is a Certified Dementia Practitioner, Reiki Master, and Animal Assisted Therapist.  Cindy lives in Southern New Jersey and is a member of Congregation Kol Ami, Cherry Hill, NJ, and Main Line Reform Temple, Wynnewood, PA.


  1. I love reading this. Steve and I were so honored to be at your Bat Mitzvah last year. It was such a happy experience. Thanks for sharing, Cin.

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.