"Let's put the Mitzvah back in Bat Mitzvah!"
Updated: Sep 5, 2020
This summer my daughter turned 11 years old.
We are finding ourselves contemplating her future Bat Mitzvah celebration that would God willing take place next summer.
(This is of course providing the Pandemic allows it to happen).
For those of you unfamiliar, a Bat Mitzvah is a Jewish Milestone, when a Jewish girl reaches 12 years old.
Being Bat mitzvah means that you are considered responsible for your own actions in a spiritual sense.
For the boys, this milestone is called Bar Mitzvah.
Boys reach Bar Mitzvah when they turn 13 years old.
In essence, the Bar Mitzvah boy reads the Torah for the first time, receives his own pair of Tefillin and his Tallit.
Aside from the liturgical rituals, there is of course the famous party.
For the girls, the Bat Mitzvah celebration very much depends on the denomination and customs of the family.
Some girls read the Torah while others don't, some read it in the context of a Women Tefillah settings others (if they are conservative or reform) read their Torah portion in front of the entire congregation.
Each family follows their own path reflecting their own personal beliefs and customs.
My concern is less with the liturgical aspect of what each family chooses to do.
I'd like to see the Bar and Bat Mitzvahs been restored to the milestones they were always intended to be.
What I mean by this is, I believe it's important to put back the mitzvah in Bat and Bar Mitzvah.
It would be great to take these opportunities to actively engage in real social justice projects that give more character to these defining moments.
What does it mean to become Bar and Bat Mitzvah?
Besides being responsible spiritually to keep the mitzvoth and preserve the continuity of the Jewish people, it should be the opportunity to highlight the values we expect our children to live by.
Who are we as Jews?
Who are we as citizens of the World?
When my daughter and I discussed her own Bat Mitzvah I suggested we should have her deliver a Dvar Torah (speech) but also we should plan to engage in two important social action projects.
One project would be destined to benefit the Jewish community and another one to benefit the community at large.
Only then we can celebrate with a party.
There is no reason why we shouldn't marry the two values religious and good citizenship.
I can't think of a better time to highlight the kind of values I want her to live by.
I know that I am by no means the first one to have these thoughts.
In fact, many people made sure their children's celebrations and milestones became occasions to engage in true charity, chances to give back to the community.
I'd love to see this become a trend, something our kids could look back to with pride.
After all, these are the defining moments in a person's life.
Food for thought, for us parents to take every opportunity to embrace all and many teachable moments.