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Traditions, Transitions, and Timeless Truths

December 10, 2019

A few weeks ago, my family and I had the opportunity to attend a bat mitzvah.

For those of you who don’t know, this is a Jewish tradition. It’s a coming-of-age ceremony for girls that celebrates their entrance into the community as a responsible, contributing member. This rite of passage for girls—or bar mitzvah for boys—has been celebrated in the Jewish culture for generations.

The young lady we celebrated recited Hebrew and shared reflections from the work required to arrive at this special day. The amount of disciplined preparation she placed into this ceremony was truly impressive. There were many remarkable things about this celebration, but a few stand out among the rest. 

There are three things I took away from attending this bat mitzvah that I believe apply to all people, regardless of culture or tradition. These ideas matter in your work, your home, and your relationships:

1. The most important principles do not change. During different parts of this service, we were reminded certain things were happening because of long-standing tradition, dating back to 1300 BC and the time of Moses. These are ancient commands that people are still seeking to obey because they are applicable and helpful to their lives. What does that mean for us today? Ecclesiastes 1:9 says,

“There is nothing new under the sun.”

That’s not meant to downplay our individual contributions, but it’s a humbling reminder that our big ideas are really one of two things: a new way to talk about something that has been true for a long time, or if it really is new, it’s probably not that groundbreaking or important.

2. There’s value in community. During the bat mitzvah, it was obvious that the entire congregation, every single person, was invested in this young woman—her life and her journey. We all need this kind of community, one that stretches beyond our immediate families. For me, one of the best places to find this has been in the fellowship of a local church. If you’re not finding it there, you should find it somewhere. I often see groups that go through ADDO’s leadership programs develop this kind of community as they have shared experiences. In each program, there comes a point where you have to let the guard down, be a little more vulnerable, and engage in some real-talk. This inevitably leads to people knowing one another on a deeper level. People crave this kind of community, and it’s vital to find it and cultivate it where you can.

3. It’s important to speak truth. This young woman’s parents, her Rabbi, and other important people in her life verbally spoke truth over her life. The verbal piece is key. You can open up Instagram or Pinetrest and find inspirational quotes. But going to this bat mitzvah reminded me of the importance of speaking truth to somebody face to face. Proverbs 18:21 says, “Life and death are in the power of the tongue.” It’s interesting that it doesn’t say, “Life and death are in the power of the pen.” As someone who writes books and blogs, I believe the written word has tremendous value, but there’s a special power in speaking real words into people’s lives.

This celebration ceremony of a different faith reminded me of ways I can grow in my own life and leadership. Here are two specific challenges for you and for me this week: 

1. Do you have community outside your immediate family? If not, find it. Cultivate it. 

2. Speak truth to the people in your life. Stop typing and let them hear your voice.


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