We are still about two years away from Jaelah’s bat mitzvah and yet it is finally time for preparations to begin! This has been a much-anticipated time in our household. The children look at this process of being released into “grown-up-hood” as a treasured time. Though there are some fun privileges in our family that we’ve associated with bat-mitzvah season, such as finally getting to wear make-up, the heart process of a child taking ownership of her relationship with the Lord is the primary purpose of becoming a bat mitzvah, or “daughter of the commandments.”
As our spiritual and emotional preparations begin with our eldest child, I am in continual awareness that these precious souls are only loaned to us for a short time. Being released into the responsibility of one’s own walk with God for the rest of her life is a tremendous time of blessing, a journey that must be walked with a knowledge of its holiness coupled with rejoicing as we are draw nearer to that special day.
There are many books we want to read through in the coming months, and with my big stack it’s obvious that we will need every last week of the next couple of years. More than just book knowledge, however, now is a time of discovering and expressing in a greater fullness the unique gifting and personality God has equipped Jaelah with.
There are few bat/bar mitzvah programs and books I have found that emphasize the New Covenant in its fullness. A Torah-submissive lifestyle is something our family wholeheartedly embraces, yet the walk of faith and redemption all of our children must eventually choose for themselves is much more than living out commandments in a practical way. It is finding oneself utterly dependent upon Yeshua for everything and choosing to follow Him with everything, submitted in heart AND action. Technically, I suppose, we will be having a bat b’rit chadashah (daughter of the New Covenant) ceremony for Jaelah.
Here are some of the categories and resources we’ve chosen to incorporate into our family’s bar/bat mitzvah training. Some might end up left by the wayside while others will be a go-to for all seven of our kiddos. I’m sure I’ll find some other treasures along the way to add to our collection as we launch Jaelah into adulthood.
First things first. In our family, one responsibility we will require of our children before their covenant ceremonies will be to read through the entire Bible. We’ve read through most of the Bible already incorporating it into our school day, but as we are approaching a new Torah cycle we have decided to help Jaelah go deeper with it at a level not too far above her understanding yet challenging in just the right way. Daddy and Jaelah will be going through not only the weekly Scripture portions together this year, but also working through the Walk! devotional commentaries on the Torah, Haftarah, and B’rit Chadashah readings. Since this study will take a fair amount of time daily, I am going to count it as Bible credit for school as well.
Devotion to Yeshua in spite of what the world does and says is difficult, particularly for those not living with the religious freedoms we have in the US. I don’t want to overwhelm Jaelah’s extremely compassionate heart with violence unnecessarily, but the history of believers is fraught with stories of incredible conviction in the face of persecution, imprisonment, and death. These true stories can be gripping and build faith in spite of the difficulty of reading them. Missions and the persecuted church is already something we discuss regularly in homeschool, but now Jaelah will be reading through Voice of the Martyrs’ publication Extreme Devotion. It has short, daily readings, with devotional-type questions. Many of the stories are taken from Fox’s Book of Martyrs, a book I am reserving for high school.
The Hebrew roots of our faith is not a new discussion topic around here, and yet there are many specific theological and doctrinal topics that we would like to help Jaelah understand more than she does now. Hebrew roots is an extraordinarily complex subject, so we will be taking portions from the following books and presenting them to Jaelah in the “cliff notes” versions. Other than developing very basic skills of exegesis (which has been extremely successful so far with the Discover 4 Yourself series of Bible study books by Kay Arthur), my main desire is to create a framework from which she can continue to build throughout young adulthood and beyond. Even as a college student, I struggled through Samuele Bacchiochi’s From Sabbath to Sunday, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t present the bullet points to her now. Though she could technically read through all of them and maybe gain some insights, I plan to use these books as school curriculum towards the end of high school because I want her maturity to be at a level where she can more readily understand and incorporate them into her belief system: Holy Cow! by Hope Egan, Our Hands are Stained with Blood by Dr. Michael Brown, From Sabbath to Sunday by Samuele Bacchiochi, Too Long in the Sun by Richard Rives, Fellow Heirs and The Letter Writer by Tim Hegg, and The Mystery of the Gospel and Grafted In by Daniel Lancaster.
While many of the resources I just listed will give a great intro into the Hebrew roots of our faith, they assume that a basis for Christ’s divinity and identity as Savior has already been established and accepted. The framework of Messianic faith must be laid upon the foundation of Christ. To really help her solidify her understanding of God the Creator and Yeshua His Son, Jaelah will be going through Lee Strobel’s excellent “Case for…” series, which is geared toward students. We’ll read The Case for Faith, The Case for Christ, as well as The Case for a Creator.
One part of bat mitzvah training that begins now and will go on for several more years involves both purity and modesty (in body and heart) as well as godly relationships with the opposite sex. I’ve read several books on purity that devote more time to defining what types of clothing are truly modest than to developing the purity of heart and mind. Instead of slapping on a maxi skirt and billowy blouse and calling it “modest” I want Jaelah to see that there is much more to how she displays herself to the world. What motivates her? What parts of the culture does she allow to influence how she thinks about herself? How will she define beauty? Does modest begin and end with the clothing on one’s body, or does it actually pertain even to speech and attitude? How does she feed her definitions of these things – from the world or from God’s Word revealed through Holy Spirit? All these questions will continue to be asked long past a bat mitzvah ceremony, but I want to start laying the foundation even now. First, we will go through Leslie Ludy’s Lost Art of True Beauty, which is geared toward younger women. For lighter reading that provides encouragement about a variety of things related to godly young women, from modesty to devotion time to gossip, we’re subscribing to the Set Apart Girl magazine that comes out bi-monthly. These magazines are exquisitely done and are so good that we will get the hard copies instead of the electronic version so we’ll always have them at hand. When we’re ready for a bit more depth on relationship study, which probably will be much closer to when Jaelah is 13, we will read Elisabeth Elliott’s Passion and Purity. I would say it’s a timeless book on relationship and purity, though it still has some material that will not pertain for awhile yet. Another book that is a bit advanced but will be on our shelf is Before You Meet Prince Charming by Sarah Mally. Despite what the title might suggest, it’s actually a book geared toward becoming a young woman who focuses more on who she is becoming in Christ than on what young men she attracts. It’s still not really on the radar for us, but I like having resources at the ready for topics like this.
As Jaelah develops her spiritual and motivational gifts, we will go through Don and Katie Fortune’s Discover Your Child’s Gifts. This book has tests that will help both Jaelah and us as her parents to see the particular way she views the world and how to help her find the place she will fit in the Body of Messiah. Some of the things we want to incorporate for Jaelah will be service-oriented and involve mission trips and helping with different ministry tasks over the next couple of years. We’ll be looking for things that help to turn book knowledge into wisdom through life experience. While somewhat more difficult to plan out than pages to read in books, I look forward to this aspect of Jaelah’s development as a believer and soon-to-be daughter of the covenant.