Upon reaching the age of thirteen, a Jewish child automatically becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah - literally a son or daughter of the commandments. This means that a young person is now responsible for her or his religious practice. It is customary to celebrate this coming of age in the context of a Shabbat morning service. The Bat/Bar Mitzvah leads the congregation in prayer, chants from the Torah for the first time and delivers a D’var Torah, a word of Torah or teaching. However, the preparation to become a child of the commandments extends far beyond developing the reading and chanting skills exercised at this momentous occasion. A young person is only truly ready to accept and assume the responsibilities of commandedness when he/she understands the practices and values of Judaism. This broader goal is reflected in the requirements outlined in our B'nai Mitzvah guide. It is our hope that as our students embark on this journey and go through this process, they will strengthen their family’s ties to their class community, our Temple family and to the larger Jewish community and in doing so the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will desire to continue a lifelong relationship with Judaism.
Just as the ancient Israelites each contributed in his/her own way to the building of the mishkan (tabernacle), we recognize that today each one of us contributes best to our community in different ways. Consider this preparation time as a time to learn the fundamentals of how to nurture a relationship with Jewish tradition, religion and community.
At Temple Habonim, Bar/Bat Mitzvah training takes place over several years with each student coming to the time of his or her B’nai Mitzvah prepared to lead the congregation in prayer. Adequate time is needed for students to develop familiarity and expertise with their knowledge of Hebrew and the flow of the service. For Bar/Bat Mitzvah to be both a meaningful and substantive Jewish moment, it is essential that it be based on more than a crash course of study. Several years in the religious/Hebrew school of a synagogue prior to Bar/Bat Mitzvah is recommended as a minimum of requisite Jewish education.
During the B’nai Mitzvah year students are expected to attend a sufficient number of worship services to allow them to develop familiarity with all the parts of a service. Students will begin tutoring 5-6 months prior to their Bar/Bat Mitzvah so that they may become proficient in the prayers, their Torah portion, and their Haftarah reading. Tutoring for the prayers and Haftarah will be with the Education Director and tutoring for their Torah portion will be with our Rabbi. These tutoring sessions are in addition to religious and Hebrew school classes.
Our goals for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and his /her family are:
- To understand the meaning and importance of Mitzvot (commandments)
- To celebrate Shabbat
- To deepen their understanding of Torah, God and Liturgy
- To foster a relationship with Temple Habonim and the larger Jewish community
- To appreciate the importance of Hebrew education and study
- To embrace the values of Tzedakah (justice), Tikkun Olam (the repair of the world) and Gemilut Chasadim (acts of loving kindness)
A handbook with further details of the B'nai Mitzvah process is given to all families to help in preparing for this important day and is available through the Temple office.