Nora and I slid into a pew in the ornately decorated temple. Beautiful mosaics covered the front of the worship space. Nora's friend Lilly awaited the beginning of her bat mitzvah service. Other friends sat close by, most of them, like us, unaccustomed to the special ceremony we awaited.

This ceremony is not a separate service organized to honor the participant. Instead the 13-year-old leads the regular worship of the day. As the service began, Lilly read the Torah in Hebrew, the rhythmic words filling the temple. Her parents shared stories and words of encouragement. Between the readings, her brothers, grandparents, and two cousins shared blessings called aliyah.

Then Lilly preached, well, at least that's what I would call it. The Jewish term is d'var Torah, explicating the passage of the day. Lilly shared about Noah, his faith, and how her faith had deepened as she studied for this day. She explained that Noah had been spared because he was a righteous man among a culture of sin. She ...

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