A Blessed Moment in Time
A Jewish home opens its heart,
A child is born and its link
To the generations is proclaimed.
Today, that child, nearly grown,
Is called to read from the Torah
And is welcomed into the congregation.
May this moment in time be blessed.
What is Bar/Bat Mitzvah (plural: B’nei Mitzvah)? For starters, it’s not something you “get,” or something that’s done to you (as in “I was Bar Mitzvahed”); nor is it simply a celebration, a milestone event, or a religious service. Bar/Bat Mitzvah is really none of these things.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah is something you become. Strictly speaking, it happens automatically when you come of age (in traditional Jewish terms, that’s 13 years old, with some sources saying 12 for girls). At Westchester Reform Temple where every child celebrates close to the 13th birthday, a child marks this coming-of-age through a process of study, social action, self-reflection, and religious service. And we, the congregation and professional staff, together with the child’s family, rejoice in his/her entry into Jewish adulthood.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah is only a beginning. It represents a commitment to Jewish learning and living, and of dedication to the welfare of the Jewish community. Most of all, it represents a commitment to continued study and exploration. In the truest sense of the word, Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a “commencement” of an emerging Jewish adult’s religious studies.
It is easy to lose sight of Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s true meaning. Our colleague Rabbi Steven Kushner puts it well: “There can be little doubt that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration has come to embody both the bright and dark sides of Judaism American-Style. We know the excesses. They’ve been elevated to legendary lore. But we also know the power, the beauty, the wonder of it all. Indeed, were Bar/Bat Mitzvah not so filled with the potential for meaning, you would not be holding this book right now. Welcome (back) to the journey of discovery.”
Because Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a long process, with lots of details to manage, we have put together this information to help you manage the details and not get lost in the process. We want to make the process as smooth as possible, and, ultimately, one in which the lives of the child and family are together enriched and blessed.