In the last week, two friends have told me that their daughters are not having bat mitzvahs.
One is a friend from long ago with whom I just reconnected (thanks, Internet!). When M was born, I had the kind of mother's group you read about and wish you had, except for once I actually had it. We met in prenatal yoga, so we were a copacetic bunch of athleticish, organicish, liberalish moms. Our babies were all born within a month of each other, and we were together from babies lying on the blanket to toddlers running around the playground--then I moved away, but I think they stuck together for a while longer. Anyway, I was just thinking about S, probably the one I was closest to, and wondering if she was preparing for a bat mitzvah too, so I tracked her down (LinkedIn), and we were both delighted to find each other again.
Only her daughter is not having a bat mitzvah, because S lost her faith after 9/11 and couldn't see sending her kids to Hebrew School if she didn't believe. I actually haven't responded to that email, because I didn't know what to say.
Then this morning a very good friend emailed me to say that her daughter, whose bat mitzvah was fairly imminent, had decided not to do it because, among other things, she doesn't believe in God. That one was easy to reply to: I just said "Good for her. Hope things haven't been too difficult," or words to that effect.
Then I said to S, "Are we really superficial, or just well-adjusted?" (which was not meant to imply that any of these other people are maladjusted; it's just what I said).
Because, honestly, believing in God has never once come up in the entire preparation for M's bat mitzvah (OK, that may not be true, M may have discussed it with her tutor, but certainly it has not come up between me, S, and M).
S said that he has thought about this issue a lot since his bar mitzvah, and the Talmud says nothing about believing in God, you just have to follow the rules. For Catholics, not believing is a sin, but it's not like that for Jews. I don't know if this is true, but it sounds good to me, and S tends to think about things like this more deeply than I do, since I just read novels.
We didn't make M have a bat mitzvah, we gave her the choice, and if she'd said no, we would have said fine, but there was pretty much no question that she was going to do it. And, like I said, God never came up. Why? Maybe because God just isn't a big part of our religious life. I mean, we go to the Unitarian church of synagogues for a reason. I mean, I don't even think our rabbi believes in God. We're all about the community and the values and the ritual, and, interestingly, or perhaps not surprisingly, that's what we're emphasizing in M's bat mitzvah (interesting because we never overtly said that was what we were going to emphasize, it just kind of happened; not surprising because, well, duh, that's us).
And, you know, it's not that I don't believe in God, or that I do. I just kind of don't go there. I mean, I certainly don't believe in an old white guy with a beard handing out commandments. But I'm not quite sure I think we're just collections of atoms obeying physical laws either.
Hmm, now I've gotten to the point where I really should make a point, but I don't know what it is. The one conclusion I feel like drawing, and it might be the conclusion to a different post, is that although I am capable of angsting on just about anything and everything, I simply don't have angst about Judaism, our synagogue, M's bat mitzvah...or God. M and S don't seem to either. And for that, I'm glad.
Edited to add: Of course I have angst about sucky Jews who do sucky things, but that's different. In fact, I think that angst is to some degree predicated upon the absence of general religious angst, but please don't ask me to explain how that is the case.