Teachings: Bar And Bat Mitzvah

Opening the Dialogue with God in B’nai Mitzvah Preparation

The B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

by Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel

An anxious pre-teen enters tentatively into my home for the first day of b’nai mitzvah training. We begin by chatting to learn the basics about each other. Listed below are some of the questions I ask and some of the responses I receive.

What Do Rites of Passage Accomplish?

What do Rites of Passage Accomplish? by Rabbi Goldie Milgram with Barry Bub

Rituals and their symbolic, action, and liturgical components facilitate lifecycle events or significant transitions by:

·     providing the framework of support for desired or necessary change

·     acting as speed bumps that invite reflection and integration

Review: Looking for Me...in This Great Big Family

This review by Rabbi Goldie Milgram first appeared in the Philadelphia Jewish Voice.

Looking for Me…in This Great Big Family
by Betsy R. Rosenthal is a powerful free-verse lament about the burdens of growing up in a large family. Laments are an important part of mobilizing oneself toward healing. This novel offers numerous worthwhile teachable moments for parents and educators who gift or assign it. The rising rates of

Introduction to The Meaning and Value of Bar/Bat Mitzvah as a Rite of Passage

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues here

"The Story of Pachi"

The easiest way to learn why staff at Bmitzvah.org collect and create exciting new approaches to bar/bat mitzvah is through the story of Pachi, who taught Rabbi Milgram, this site's author and founder, the importance of mentoring meaningful bar/bat mitzvah processes.

During my son Mark’s bar-mitzvah preparatory year, since his Torah portion was Noah [and the ark], I felt fortunate to be serving for as rabbi on a Universe Explorer cruise up the coast of Alaska. We helicoptered onto glaciers, whale watched, visited tribes. The big "Ah Ha!" moment happened in Victoria, British Columbia at the Natural History Museum.

Links to Mitzvah Project Opportunities

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues

The following organizations offer solid mitzvah project opportunities:

Jewish Coalition for Service: Umbrella agency for social action volunteer service opportunities around the world. http://werepair.org/

Areyvut.
Trains and partners teachers and schools in how to do social action, also lists many ideas and methods for mitzvah projects. Areyvut.org


Ziv Tzedekah Fund: Danny Siegel’s many mitzvah ideas, books efforts and the Stick Your Neck Out! Curriculum for schools are highlighted here. Ziv.org

Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger is dedicated to supporting soup kitchens and food pantries; many families give about 3% of B-Mitzvah party costs to this effort. Mazon.org

Visualization: Torah and Her Garments

B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

Imagine it is time for you to go up to the Torah, perhaps your bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah. You are about to become a witness and participant in the reading and interpretation of Torah. Go ahead, approach the aron, the ark; it represents the Ark of the Covenant, in which the Israelites carried the carved tablets with the Ten Commandments in the wilderness. The doors of the ark are opened. You will cross a threshold in your life as an elder or leader of the community places the Torah in your arms. The sacred mantle of leadership is upon you.

How to Write a Note for a Gift

The B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

The following is a sample gift letter we sent to a cousin who happened to be inter-marrying so it also feels good to give in honor of the wedding to a Jewish cause which is doing non-sectarian relief work....global tikkun olam!

Dear Ones:

We welcome you as a new couple to our family!

It is a Jewish tradition to add blessing to a couples life, on the event of their marriage, by giving a gift of tzedakah (a donation which consciously changes someone else's situation) in their honor.

What Age for Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah?

B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

Parenting Today

What Age Bar Mitzvah? What Age Bat Mitzvah?

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues

Please don’t undertake a Bar/bat mitzvah process of learning and planning a ritual and celebration just because everyone else is doing it, or because of parental or communal pressure. It is right to undertake Bar/bat mitzvah when one is developmentally willing, curious, and has the time to learn new things about being Jewish and about oneself.

Creating a Meaningful Dvar Torah

Giving over meaningful guidance on the Torah portion during a religious service is not so much a speech as it is a mitzvah, a sacred act called “giving a d’var Torah.” A d’var, “a word” of Torah, is a brief teaching where you connect your Torah portion with the heart, mind and spirit of those present. Israelis often refer to this practice as a derasha, or drash, an “explanation” of the Torah portion.

Interview Method of Dv'ar Torah Preparation with a Student

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues

Interview of Bar Mitzvah student as a Torah study process. Note: With an exceptionally anxious student this can be a helpful way to actually give a scripted Torah teaching on the day of Bar/Bat Mitzvah, both of you up there doing this dialogue together.

Rabbi: What did you learn in this portion that surprised you?

Kevin:  First, Noah didn't even challenge God's decision to destroy civilization.

What Can We Learn from B'nei Mitzvah Past?

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution

A Jew from Yemen once told me how he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah back in the land of his birth. What left an indelible impression on him was staying up all the previous night with his grandfather, and together reciting the entire Book of Psalms. Submitted by Rabbi Monty Eliasov, Austin, TX

Beth Ornstein was bat mitzvah in 2002. "This has been the best year of my life. I really worked hard, and everyone had a great time. My grandmother came from England, she’s 84. I was so happy to see her." Beth has a book of pictures and memorabilia she’d created from the event, it was bursting with masks and every note sent back to indicate attendance had a blessing on it. That it seems, was her teacher’s idea. "She taught us to make the return cards a spiritual message to lift each other’s spirits on the path to bat mitzvah. That works, you know!" What about the masks? "My bat mitzvah as around Purim time. I researched every midrash I could find about Queen Esther and wrote one of my own. I asked my friends to write midrashim (story commentaries) as presents for me, a few really did! They read their at the party and then they surprised me with a skit about Queen Vashti. Then everyone sang the Esther song, even the stodgiest people in our family got into the spirit of it. It was a day to remember!"

The Flame: Why Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Is Not about Your Birthday

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar Mitzvah & Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues

    The flame is a primary Jewish metaphor for the soul. Judaism enjoins us to be careful lest we put out the flame of someone's soul through careless or deliberate words or acts. So a few decades back, when, unfortunately, a Christian caterer started the idea of a candle-lighting ceremony for bar/bat mitzvah parties,

Grandpa Sam's Miserable Bar Mitzvah: A Cautionary Tale

The B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

Reb Goldie here. My dad called today, he’s 82 years old and one of my greatest sources of inspiration and wisdom. "So, Goldie. I hear you are working on a bar mitzvah revolution. Did I ever tell you about my bar mitzvah?"

Oddly, he hadn’t. In fact none of the elders in the family ever had. I bade him go on.

"I used to go to Talmud Torah, (religious instruction) between 3rd and 4th on Catherine Street in South Philadelphia. Mr Zentner was the principal of the school. It was an after school thing during Junior High.

Understanding & Appreciating the Jewish Calendar

What are the blackout dates for Jewish rites of passage?

For those scheduling Jewish life cycle ceremonies there are hundreds of available dates as well as a number of black-out dates when rites cannot be held.

Four Approaches to Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues

Option #1: Congregational

Today, a classic B-mitzvah ritual is one at which the student symbolically reveals Jewish life skills by chanting from the Torah scroll and then offering an inspiring interpretation of the weekly Torah portion during a religious service. Congregations often have additional expectations of the B-mitzvah student, such as chanting from the prophets, wearing of a kippah (scull cap), tallit (prayer shawl) and, on weekdays, tefillin (meditation boxes with straps), as well as lighting Shabbat candles, leading parts of a Shabbat, Monday or Thursday service, regular service attendance, and organizing a social action initiative to help others materially or physically. Some communities reserve some of these elements for males only. Many congregations welcome innovation and creativity by the student in formulating the ritual. Be sure not to assume local norms; bring your questions to the presiding rabbi or cantor.

Healthy Integration of the Sad with the Glad

How to include the memory of loved ones during happy rites of passage

A challenging point in weddings, b'nei mitzvah and baby namings can be the absence of loved ones recently deceased, who are too far off to be able to attend, who are doing military service, or who can’t be present for other reasons. What to do?

• You can have the person leading the rite invoke the absent one’s memory/honor early on, if you wish; immediately after the opening verses of song, psalm or prayer is generally a good spot for this.

What is a Tallit? What do the Fringes Mean? And a Ritual for Tying the Knots

The B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

Tallit as a Jewish spiritual practice is derived from a verse in the Torah: “God told Moses ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and guided them throughout their generations to make fringes on the corners of their garments.'" [Numbers 15:37-40]

Finding Meaning in Your Torah Portion

FINDING MEANING IN YOUR TORAH PORTION from Make Your Own Bar/Bat Mitzvah: A Personal Approach to Creating a Meaningful Rite of Passage (Jossey-Bass Publishing) by Rabbi Goldie Milgram

Pre-Bar/Bat Mitzvah Rituals: The Educators' Blessing

The B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

"There’s one week to go before your bat mitzvah. Let’s do something when I come over, can I surprise you? Pack some sun screen and a bottle of water, we’ll have a little adventure together."

The bat mitzvah girl was very psyched by the idea, her folks didn’t let on that I’d cleared the mystery trip with them in advance.

We found a spot beside a river dotted with butterfly bushes. Perfect. She helped me neatly set out a colorful tarp and I placed upon it a Miriam’s cup into which we poured a small flask of spring water and a hamsa, a middle eastern symbol for good fortune.

While she watched, with ceremonial consciousness, I traded my every day kippah for the embroidered white one she saw me wearing often at high holiday services, weddings and B-mitzvahs.