Amber Marcus-Blank had her Bat Mitzvah at Congregation Beth El with Rabbi Avi Libman in La Jolla on October 28. “Bat” is a Jewish Babylonian Aramaic word meaning daughter and “Mitzvah” is commandment or law. Performing a “Mitzvah” is also known in the Jewish tradition as performing good deeds for others. “Mitzvah” comes from the root word “Tzavta” meaning connection. There are 613 mitzvah, mitzvot, and therefore, 613 ways to connect to G-d. It’s almost as if each Mitzvah is a phone number with a direct dial to G-d.
During her Bat Mitzvah, Amber found a way to connect in her Torah portion the message about trusting G-d. There are examples in the bible where G-d tells Abram, (later called Abraham) to just go. G-d does not tell Abram where or how to go but just to go. As Abram obeys this directive, he is given many blessings later from G-d such as having a son later in life. He was given the name Abraham later in life as he trusted in G-d and went forth, letting everything go and therefore moving forward.
As Abraham travels to the land of Canaan, he builds an altar and continues to spread the message of one G-d. Amber has learned about trusting in G-d as people will stumble in life and G-d helps them up.
Similarly, Amber is “Going forth and letting go” as with her mother’s job transfer to Brown University on the east coast, there have been many changes for Amber and her family.
Amber’s Torah portion is “Lech Lecha,” with a major theme of going forward and trusting. She believes that although there might not be a specific person or idea to trust, one must have faith in G-d and you will be okay.
The other half of “Lech Lecha” is to be a blessing. Amber is finding different ways to be a blessing to her family, friends and community.
Through studying Torah, connecting with her friends at Muirlands Middle School, playing soccer and having a life in San Diego, it would be easy for Amber to have negative feelings and resentment towards moving across the country. Instead, like Abraham, Amber has embraced the move and joined a synagogue, made new friends, joined two soccer teams, will join lacrosse and basketball teams. Amber hopes to be an example to teens about learning and growing from change. She would like to help others overcome obstacles regarding life changes.
For her Bat Mitzvah project, Amber has chosen something unique. She is trying to reduce the barrier of access to books as they are a central part of education. Amber, with the help of a wonderful man in San Diego who constructs little libraries, has built one library and plans to build more. On the tables at the luncheon will be books Amber has collected and she asks people to donate books for the little libraries she will be building. Although the theme of her Bat Mitzvah is soccer, a deeper meaning involves the continuation of education and learning, a treasured Jewish tradition.