Message for new drivers and confirmands: ‘Travel Safely!’

Photo: Joel Marion Photography

By Ellie Grossman

I don’t mean to sound cliché, but attending my son’s confirmation service at Congregation Shaare Emeth earlier this month reminds me, once again, how time passes so quickly. It doesn’t just remind me of how grown up our children are, it hits me like a ton of bricks as Jack and his fellow Class of 5771, many with whom he went to preschool, proudly stand on the bima and lead the service, chant the Mi Chamocha, and, most significantly, share their personal thoughts on what being a Jew means to them. 

Wearing a sea of long blue robes, they look sharp (at least they’re awake), grown up, and in good spirits as they deliver their personal sermons on God, their favorite Jewish traditions, and community service. I listen carefully to their own words-and I must say those voices are a lot deeper and stronger than they were at their bar and bat mitzvahs. Their carefully crafted speeches about their beliefs on Jewish rituals, values, ethics, and faith are profound, heartfelt, funny, touching, and inspiring as they reflect on how they will carry these Jewish teachings with them in the future.

Despite protests to wake up early on Sunday mornings and miss a sport or activity now and then, these 16-year-olds stuck with religious school all the way through 10th grade. They represent our future doctors, rabbis, lawyers, teachers, artists, builders, scientists, leaders, decision makers, parents, politicians, business owners, philanthropists, entrepreneurs, and more.

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The synagogue is packed with family and friends, and we all smile and wipe a tear when they sing together their closing number, “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” by Randy Newman. Even though Jack would have preferred to sing “Young Forever” by rapper Jay-Z, he was a good sport, and he knew he would be rewarded with bagels and chocolate chip cookies at the brunch afterwards.

The other highlight of the confirmation ceremony is the closing remarks of Rabbi James Bennett, who talks about the significance of confirmation as a metaphor for teens getting their driver’s license. To begin with, he uses the analogy of how parents tell their teens when they get behind the wheel and pull out of the driveway to “drive safely.” As the Rabbi, he blesses the class and tells them to have a “safe journey” as they embark on their Jewish lives.

Earning the privilege to drive a car and graduating religious school are both major milestones in every teen’s life. Both events give young adults a newfound freedom, independence, and responsibility. Just because a teen turns 16 years old doesn’t mean he or she automatically gets a driver’s license. And just because a person is born a Jew, doesn’t mean he or she gets to become a bar or bat mitzvah or get confirmed. These privileges are earned through study, focus, and discipline. Getting a driver’s license and being a Jew mean following the rules of the road as in obeying the law and valuing the life of oneself and others.

Even though teens may show their enthusiasm more when they receive the car keys over the Torah for the first time, they know deep inside that both of these events change their lives forever.

Ellie Grossman writes the “Mishegas of Motherhood” parenting column at www.mishegasofmotherhood.com. 

— “Dor to Dor,” is an intermittent Jewish Light series looking at various aspects of “grown-up” life and generational connections through the lens of Jewish writers living in the St. Louis area. If you are interested in contributing to Dor to Dor, email [email protected]