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Introduction to B'nei Mitzvah at Dorshei Tzedek

What are B'nei Mitzvah? Traditionally, this term (the plural for Bar, Bat, or B' Mitzvah) does not refer to a ceremony but a time of life: upon reaching the age of 13, a young Jew becomes obligated to take on the mitzvot, Jewish religious and ethical practices and obligations. Among the privileges of this new status are being counted in a minyan (the quorum for communal prayer) and being eligible to be called up to the Torah for an aliyah, to recite the Torah blessings. Although Reconstructionist Judaism is not centered around the observance of halacha (Jewish law), and so does not conceive of becoming B'Mitzvah as a literal entry into a life of traditional observance of the mitzvot, it remains an important rite of passage, both for the young person and their family. What, then, is the significance of becoming B'Mitzvah from a Reconstructionist perspective?

A B Mitzvah ceremony is an acknowledgment of a commitment to Jewish life and Jewish values. If we understand mitzvot as ritual and ethical pathways to meaningful connection with Jewish traditions, Jewish values, and Jewish community, then becoming B'Mitzvah signifies a young person’s commitment to understanding and exploring these pathways. In addition, the ceremony and preparation leading up to it are opportunities for family education as well as family celebration, and a chance for parents to reflect on what it means to hand on Jewish values and practices to the next generation. 

Becoming B Mitzvah is an affirmation of Jewish learning. The ceremony is an opportunity for a young person to share the fruits of their study of Hebrew, Jewish prayer, Torah, and Jewish civilization so far, and to explore the role of Judaism in their lives at present and going forward.

B Mitzvah is a celebration of community, as we welcome the young person into the Dorshei Tzedek community as a Jewish adult — to be counted in our minyan for prayer, and to be called upon to read Torah and take on other responsibilities. We hope that this ceremony becomes a gateway to the young person’s involvement in the life of the congregation in new ways.

This information is intended to help in the process of planning your family’s B Mitzvah celebration. Included are communal expectations as well as suggestions for how to make the ceremony, and the process leading up to it, the most meaningful and joyful possible.

Each family meets with Rabbi Toba approximately one year before the ceremony to go over the entire process in detail, and family education sessions are required as part of the preparation process.

The following sections include expectations and requirements for the B Mitzvah ceremony and the study leading up to it; opportunities to give tzedakah; a discussion of aspects of the ceremony itself; and logistical details and suggestions. All requirements or expectations are in bold typeface. There is also a checklist for your convenience. We ask that you read the entire collection of guidelines carefully, however.

Any additional questions you have can be brought to Rabbi Toba.

Next: Communal Expectations

Fri, December 8 2023 25 Kislev 5784