Temple Sinai joyfully celebrates with our Bar or Bat Mitzvah families as they reach this important milestone in a Jewish family’s life. There are three important philosophical underpinnings of Temple Sinai policies and attitudes towards B’nai Mitzvah:
• The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony is neither a performance nor a competition. Rather, it is a celebration and an accomplishment for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student.
• The goal is that the student comes away from the process with the tools to become a Jewish adult. A Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a beginning, not an end.
• Sustained and committed parental involvement is key if the process is to be successful.
A Brief History of the Bar Mitzvah
All societies determine an age that separates childhood from adulthood—the age when an individual assumes his or her religious and communal responsibilities in his or her society. Like most traditions, the ceremonies connected with becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah at age 13 evolved over time. It has always been viewed as one moment in the process of spiritual growth and commitment to the Jewish people. Historical information is provided in an Appendix of the Temple Sinai Handbook..
Keeping the Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Perspective
The months leading up to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah are full of many emotions and organizational challenges. The following may be helpful in keeping the experience in perspective.
• As stated above, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony is not a performance. The synagogue is not a theater; the Bimah is not a stage; the congregation is not an audience. All students should feel a sense of accomplishment; none should be made to feel inadequate.
Accomplishment can occur with a broad range of contribution and participation of the student. Some children will be capable of reading several verses of Torah, while for others, completing one will be a meaningful and respected achievement. More to the point, the only mistake one can make at a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is to lose sight of this truth.
• Being a Bat or Bar Mitzvah is a lifetime experience—a state of being that remains with one throughout life. Indeed, the true measure of accomplishment comes not on the day one becomes a Bat or Bar Mitzvah but in the days that follow. In other words, becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah should be thought of as a Jewish “commencement.” It is the beginning of a lifetime of mitzvot, a beginning of a lifetime of learning. As such, it is our congregation’s firm belief and hope that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration is validated and enhanced by a commitment to continue religious education towards Confirmation and to participate in our Temple Youth Group.
• Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a community observance. It is not by coincidence that we choose to hold this initiation ceremony in public. To be a Jew means to live within a covenantal relationship—not only with God but with other Jews as well. Bar/Bat Mitzvah marks the entry of the child as a full-fledged member of the community. The awarding of an Aliyah, (“being called to the Torah”), is a gift of the Jewish people. For this reason, the marking of the child’s coming of age takes place in the synagogue—the communal home. The parents of the student form this core of this community, and must be actively engaged in nurturing the connection between the student, his or her family,and the community.