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Meaningful Jewish MIlestones
The glitz and glitter at a celebration might be fun in the moment. For a special milestone, though, long-lasting commemoration is a lot more meaningful. How can we create that long-lasting commemoration? Jews are a nation of people who recognize that every day is a gift from God, and reaching significant milestones is a special gift. Important life cycle events are an opportune time to connect to G-d, the Source of our blessings.
Here’s a compilation of significant Jewish milestones, with information about the meaning of the day, traditional customs, and tips about how we can maximize the opportunity of the day to create long-lasting meaning.
Kiddush & Naming a Jewish Baby Girl
It’s the day most associated with the term ‘Mazel Tov’. A baby is born. A Jewish baby means another link in the chain that connects you to generations of Jews. Every parent’s heart is overwhelmed with joy and hope. Every year this becomes the day to celebrate the completion of another meaningful year of Jewish life.
There are a handful of customs associated with this day, such as saying Tehillim and getting a blessing from a Tzaddik. But the most honored among them is the minhag of giving Tzedaka i.e. donations to Jewish charities.
Your little boy is now eight days old. He’s ready to enter and be ranked among the Chosen Nation. This is what the ritual of circumcision is about. It’s a day where Eliyahu Hanavi joins guests at the Bris ceremony for this significant moment.
Today you get the chance, and choice, to acknowledge all the good and to pray for more. Giving a donation to Jewish charities is an all-inclusive expression of prayer, beloved by Hashem, that adds special meaning to the Jewish Bris.
Pidyon haben is the ceremony that’s made upon reaching the 30th day after the birth of a firstborn male. It’s interesting to realize that from all major Jewish milestones, Pidyon Haben is the rarest. Several circumstances must synchronize for this milestone to be reached. (It’s celebrated only upon the natural birth of a male who is the first birth to a Jewish mother who is neither a Kohein nor a Levite.)
You’re fortunate if you’re among those who receive this gift. Of course, you want to use this special day to daven and do good deeds so your son will merit a bountiful future.
Now a little boy turns three, ready to accept the wishes of ‘Mazel Tov’. What are you really celebrating? You’re celebrating the passage of time and the gift of another Jewish child who is ready to be introduced, with sweet treats and celebratory minhagim, to the satisfying world of Torah and Mitzvos (good deeds).
The most celebrated birthday of the Jewish cycle of life is the day on which a boy turns thirteen years old. It’s the moment in life when he transitions to a Bar Mitzvah. He’s now considered an adult, responsible for performing Mitzvos. He can be counted in a minyan – a quorum of ten men – needed for prayer. This event is festive and meaningful with speeches and singing and praise and prayer to Hashem, the source of all good.
Like the Bar Mitzvah for your young son, so the Bas Mitzvah for your daughter. It’s a reason to rejoice. It’s the day on which a young Jewish girl becomes a Jewish woman expected to adhere to all the Mitzvos given to her. As the future mother of generations, this is an opportunity to guide her in becoming a giver.
Your most special day. A day in which the Jewish cycle of life comes full circle. A day when man and woman stand under the chuppah ready to embark on a life of serving Hashem.
When a Jewish couple builds a new home, we bless them with seven Brachos. This is a day known as an opportunity to give donations and charity, it’s an auspicious day when we want to evoke rachamim (mercy) and Bracha from above.
Meaningful Jewish MIlestones
Gratitude for Reaching Jewish Milestones
Our matriarch Leah named her son Yehuda to capture the feeling of hoda’ah (thankfulness) for having been granted the gift of another son. So too, every Jew is created with the inborn ability and desire to thank: It’s in our spiritual DNA. Furthermore, we are called ‘Yehudim’, stemming of the word hoda’ah.
Appreciation is an important component of a Jew’s mindset. As we go through our daily lives, words of appreciation should continuously be on our lips. We awaken with the words ‘Modeh Ani’ and end our day with the words of ‘Boruch Hashem Leolam’. In between, we have many opportunities to say ‘Thank You Hashem’ as part of our formal prayers and daily brachos (blessings). We express appreciation for another day of life, for our bodies’ healthy functioning, for nourishing food, and for many other aspects of Hashem’s daily kindness.
And then there are those extraordinary occasions – achievement of life’s major milestones, joyous markers of the Jewish life cycle when we are blessed with far more than the ‘daily’ miracles. At times like these, when a Jew takes a step back and recognizes how graciously and lovingly Hashem showered him with blessings — whether he is deserving of them or not — should lead him to feel deeply humbled by Hashem’s benevolence, and at the same time overwhelmed with gratitude for having been a recipient of so much blessing.
Turn Joyful Emotions into Tangible Everlastings
If you want to hold onto the inspiration of those moments of joy you experience during a milestone, the Ramban suggests that you take your feelings of inspiration before they dissipate and channel them into a tangible action: A good deed.
A feeling of ‘Thank You Hashem’ should become a guiding force that compels a Jew to give tangible expression to that gratitude, specifically through the mitzvah of charity.
Why specifically charity?
We know that God created this world with the purpose of showering good upon Klal Yisrael and all living things. It’s also known that Hashem gives us humans the opportunity to partner with Him in making this world a better place.
A powerful way in which this can be attained is through giving charity because the surest route to emulating the ways of Hashem and entering into a partnership with Him is by donating to the poor and Jewish charities. And just as He so kindly showered us with blessings, so too should we open our hearts and show kindness to others who are less fortunate. G-d promised us that by performing the mitzvah of charity, we will see a ‘good return on our investment’.
Additionally, the midrash says that the Jewish nation will merit to be redeemed from our long exile in the merit of charity. So what better way is there to show appreciation to God for the gift of life while bringing the entire Jewish nation closer to redemption?!