The Women of Temple Rodef Shalom answers questions many of us have about Judaism. Each month in the Connection (our monthly print publication sent to members homes), the Traditions Helpline features a question and answer. In the future, we will also post the question and answer here on our TRS website. We hope you enjoy learning more about our traditions!
Over many months we have addressed the question, initially asked, “How can I explain bar and Bat mitzvah to my non-Jewish family and friends?” This final installment will discuss the bar and bat mitzvah ceremony today.
The rabbis specified no specific ritual requirements for a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony. Even if a boy or girl did not have a ceremony, they could still read from the Torah once they reached the required age. The roles played by the bar/bat mitzvah at the service today can vary from synagogue to synagogue. Even the timing of the service itself can vary widely. The typical bar/bat mitzvah takes place during the Sabbath morning service, where the child is called up to say the blessings over the Torah — his or her first aliyah.
Children may read from the Torah; chant the haftarah, the weekly prophetic portion; lead some or all of the congregational service; and offer a personal interpretation of the weekly Torah portion, called a d’var Torah.
Although we think of the bar or bat mitzvah ceremony taking place on Shabbat morning, it can actually occur at any time that the Torah is read; a holiday, Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the new Hebrew month) Monday or Thursday morning or on a Shabbat afternoon.
And finally, there are those who did not become a bar or bat mitzvah as a teenager. They may have grown up in a household that was not observant, or they may have not been born Jewish and chose this religion as an adult. In the last 30 years or so, a belated celebration called adult bar/bat mitzvah has developed. Temple Rodef Shalom offers this opportunity through its Rodef Chochma (pursuers of wisdom) classes.