BAR/BAT MITZVAH REQUIREMENTS AND GUIDELINES
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony is a Jewish rite of passage which marks a young person’s coming of age in the Jewish religion. Literally the term Bar/Bat Mitzvah means “son” or “daughter” of the mitzvot, emphasizing that at age 13, a young person becomes responsible for meeting religious responsibilities.
In the middle ages, what was previously simply a matter of age, became ritualized. At age 13 a boy would be called forward to recite the blessing over the Torah, recite Haftorah blessings, chant the portion, and offer a D’var Torah, an interpretation of the portions. If a child was particularly knowledgeable, he would lead a segment of the prayer service.
Reform Judaism attempted to replace Bar Mitzvah, and its emphasis on Hebrew skills, with Confirmation in the 19th century. It was also designed to include girls. As a group ceremony, held on Shavuot, confirmation has become a permanent required part of Jewish education, but never fully replaced Bar Mitzvah.
In the early 20th century, Bat Mitzvah, as an equivalent ritual ceremony for girls was introduced into Jewish life. Over time, Bat Mitzvah has evolved from a modest imitation of boys’ procedures to being fully equal, with no difference from what a boy does.
Today, Bar/Bat Mitzvah at age 13 and Confirmation at the end of 10th grade are the ceremonies which mark a young person’s coming into religious maturity and affirmation.
Age for Bat/Bar Mitzvah
A child must be at least 12 years and 8 months of age upon the day of his/her Bat/Bar Mitzvah. The ceremony is not required on the Shabbat nearest a birthday.
A child must be enrolled and in good academic standing in the Temple Shalom (or its equivalent) for at least two years immediately prior to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
It is the goal of Temple Shalom that at the time of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a child should have a level of Hebrew proficiency which includes mastery and understanding of the Hebrew prayers regularly used in our worship services, their weekly portion of the Torah and Haftorah in Hebrew (chanting optional) and the ability to recite Torah and Haftorah blessings in Hebrew (chanting optional).
To reach that goal three plans are available leading to Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
A. Temple Shalom Religious School
Bar/Bat Mitzvah must participate in the religious school Hebrew program for two years prior to her/his Bar/Bat Mitzvah (or its equivalent).
Bar/Bat Mitzvah may avail himself/herself of the services of the student rabbi for private tutoring when the rabbi is in town. There is no fee for this tutoring.
C. Outside Sources (private tutoring, tapes, computer tutoring, etc.)
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Scheduling
Bar/Bat Mitzvah dates will be scheduled with the Rabbi one year prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date. At that time, the candidate will be assigned or get approval on a Torah and Haftorah portion to be read at the bat/bat mitzvah. Every effort will be made to have the event on or near the candidate’s thirteenth birthday. Available dates are assigned based on the age of the child and family preference.
In the event we have student rabbis, the date and Torah portion set by the resident rabbi at the time of assignment will always hold up, even during the changeover in student rabbis.
The candidate will meet with the Rabbi approximately one month prior to the bar/bat mitazvah to determine if he or she is fulfilling the necessary obligations.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates and parents are expected to attend Shabbat evening services a minimum of twice a month for at least six (6) months prior to his/her Bat Mitzvah date.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Shabbat
The celebration of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a congregational event as well as a particular simcha for the child’s family and friends. Therefore, we recommend that the observance be divided into two parts.
Friday evening: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah child will conduct at least a part of the evening worship service. Candles, kiddush, aliyah, and other honor options will be made available to the family, when possible.
Saturday morning: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah child will conduct most of the service, read or chant from the Torah and Haftorah, and deliver a D’var Torah (speech). Aliyah and other honor options will be made available to the family. The parents offer a parent’s prayer.
The option of Friday night only is also available.
Non-Jewish parents and guests may participate in the service as appropriate; however, the Torah service is reserved for members of the Jewish faith.
Participants in the service are encouraged to sit on the pulpit provided there is room. Children under the age of ten (10) are not permitted to be seated on the pulpit. The rabbi will assist you in finding ways to appropriately incorporate family members, including younger relatives, into the service.
Oneg Shabbat and Kiddush
Bar/Bat Mitzvah families are to be responsible for providing the receptions following the Shabbat service(s) in which their child participates for all in attendance.
Certain principles should be kept in mind as your prepare for your simcha. The service and the child should be the focus of preparations. Extravagant decorations and / or lavish cuisine are inappropriate and detract from the Shabbat mood.
Accordingly, we offer the following guidelines:
On Friday evening, we suggest a simple Oneg Shabbat consisting of a sweets table, fruit, punch, coffee, and tea.
On Saturday morning, we recommend at least a simple Kiddush with wine and challah.
Upon request, other congregational members may help with the above preparation.
Still photography is allowed in the Sanctuary prior to Friday evening services and prior to Saturday morning services. Pictures may be taken after each service as well. Arrangements can be made to have a picture taken with the rabbi. No still photography will be permitted in the Sanctuary during services.
Video photography may be done discreetly and unobtrusively.
Shabbat pulpit flowers may be provided by the Bar/Bat Mitzvah family.
The rabbi will be pleased to work with each family regarding musical selections.
It is customary that the temple president sits on the pulpit and represents the synagogue.
Mitzvahs Related to Bar/Bat Mitzvah
It is recommended that a candidate for Bar/Bat Mitzvah do a Mitzvah project. The size and duration of the project can vvary. He or she must get approval from the Rabbi for the project.
Tzedakah is one of our basic Jewish values. We encourage each child to give a portion of his/her gifts to an appropriate Jewish charity. Such gifts will be acknowledged in the Temple Bulletin. Information is available from the rabbi or temple president if needed. Mazon, a Jewish agency to help the hungry, requests that you share the joy of your day with the needy.
The Havdallah service, which marks the end of Shabbat, is a lovely way to begin any Saturday evening Bar/Bat Mitzvah party. The service can be conducted by the child and his / her family and can be found in the prayer book.
It is expected that Bar/Bat Mitzvah youngsters will fulfill their Jewish educational commitments by continuing their formal Jewish learning until at least Confirmation.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Books
Many books concerning Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparations and ceremonies are available, and we highly recommend that a Bar/Bat Mitzvah family obtain one. One source is the catalog “The Source for Everything Jewish.” To obtain a catalog, call 1-800-426-2567. Books may also be ordered from local bookstores.
Temple Shalom maintains a kosher-style kitchen; therefore, we DO NOT allow any pork or shellfish products. We also DO NOT allow the mixing of dairy and meat. If you have a question concerning a product, please consult the Religious Vice-President.
All financial obligations (dues and religious school fees) must be current according to the Constitution and by-laws of Temple Shalom at the time of scheduling and the observance of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
An honorarium is appropriate for the rabbi.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah parents are responsible for cleanup following the Friday evening Oneg Shabbat and Saturday morning Kiddush. The temple custodian is available, for a fee, if requested.
Feel free to contact the treasurer of Temple Shalom well in advance of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah should there be financial difficulty concerning the foregoing.
(Adopted by the Board of Directors March 12 1996; update January 14, 2014)