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Bar/Bat Mitzvah at PJC

Two thousand years ago, our Rabbis determined that there were stages of life to be recognized and celebrated:

Yehudah ben Temah used to say,

At five, one begins the study of Scripture; at ten, the Mishnah. At thirteen, one takes on the responsibility for the mitzvot (bar/bat mitzvah). At fifteen, one begins to study Talmud; at eighteen, one is ready for marriage; at twenty to pursue an occupation; and at thirty one attains full strength. At forty, one gains understanding; at fifty, one gains counsel; at sixty, one reaches old age…(Mishnah Avot 5:21)

 

Our expectations of life stages are different today, but the celebration of a child becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah at age 13 still holds. This passage also teaches that any Jewish adult is considered Bar/Bat Mitzvah—responsible for the mitzvot—if he or she is age 13 or above. The privilege of celebrating such a milestone within the congregation is offered to those who have shown a commitment to Jewish learning through membership and regular participation in the life of the synagogue, including service attendance, religious school studies, independent study, and tikkun olam, acts which endeavor to continually repair and improve our world.

There are many texts written to aid families in preparing for and making the most from the B’nai Mitzvah (plural of Bar Mitzvah) experience. We highly Putting God on the Guest List by Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin, and we currently use the “For Kids” version of it in the seventh grade class. In addition, the Rabbi will share other articles and resources during the preparatory year.

 

Social Action Project

According to our sages, the world is sustained by three things: Torah (study), avodah (worship), and gemillut chasadim (acts of loving kindness). While the months of preparation, class attendance, and service participation help fulfill the first two pillars of being a member of the Jewish community, there are many options for fulfilling the third pillar of giving back to the community.

We require our B’nai Mitzvah students to fulfill this sacred obligation in a way that is meaningful to each of them.  The project each takes on should be one of their own initiative:  Each should identify a problem or need in the local community or beyond, decide how best to address it, and continue from there. Each project should be approved, at least six months before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service date, by the Rabbi.

Past B’nai Mitzvah projects have been hours spent visiting in nursing homes, rescuing lost animals, raising awareness and funds for international causes, collecting materials to benefit local organizations, partnerships with Jewish students in Israel or other WUPJ countries, and more. 

Another way to link the day of the Bar/ Bat Mitzvah to the obligation of social action is by connecting the reception to the doing of mitzvot.  Some families choose to look beyond the usual floral and/or balloon centerpieces and create ones that have enduring value: Decorative arrangements of new or gently used books, school supplies, sports equipment, food, blankets and more can be donated after the reception to worthy local organizations.

In addition, some choose to donate a percentage of their food costs to organizations that help feed others. While there are many, two suggestions are the Interfaith Nutrition Network (www.the-inn.org) on Long Island or Mazon: A Jewish response to Hunger (www.mazon.org) nationally.  Island Harvest (www.islandharvest.org) provides a convenient way to donate any leftover food from the reception, working with your caterer.  Please make these arrangements in advance of the day of service and reception.

Knowing that your child will receive gifts of cash on this occasion, this is an opportunity to work with your child on selecting appropriate places to donate a portion of these gifts.  The Rabbi would be honored to assist you in identifying organizations that could benefit from such generosity.

 

PJC's B'nei Mitzvah Manual

Click here to read B'nei MItzvah Manual

Wed, 17 July 2019