B’nei Mitzvah Resources

THE B’NEI MITZVAH PROCESS

Scheduling

Temple assigns Bar/Bat Mitzvah dates approximately 1 ½ to 2 years in advance. The date given to you will be as close to your child’s 13th birthday as possible, as determined by the Jewish calendar, the availability of the Rabbis, and the Temple calendar. When you receive your date, if there are any questions or concerns, we are happy to work with you to find a date that works best for you and Temple.

Family Meetings and Rehearsals

Rabbi Mahler will meet with the student and their parents a number of times throughout the preparation process. The first meeting will take place 6-7 months before the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date. At that initial meeting, Rabbi Mahler will give the family all materials needed for the tutorial.

A second meeting will occur about 4-6 weeks prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date to review the student’s progress and preparation, provide guidance in the preparation of the D’var Torah, and to schedule a rehearsal. At this rehearsal, about a week before the date, Rabbi Mahler will meet with the family to walk through the service and answer any questions that may arise.

Student Tutorial

The Temple Emanuel Torah Center is staffed by superb teachers and tutors who have extensive experience in preparing students for B’nei Mitzvah. However, ultimately it is the student’s responsibility to learn the necessary material. Nothing will prepare the student better for this monumental day in his/her life than hard work. Students should practice at least 30 minutes to one hour per day.

Approximately 9 months before the date your child becomes a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, you will receive a letter about the scheduling of tutorial classes. Tutoring sessions take place on Sunday mornings, and Monday and Wednesday evenings. These sessions are in addition to the regularly scheduled Torah Center classes.

Students generally begin the tutorial 6-7 months prior to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah date. However, arrangements can be made for a student to begin earlier. Please discuss any tutorial concerns with Rabbi Locketz.

Private tutoring through Temple Emanuel can also be arranged for those students in need of additional help. Please remember, however, that many times, additional practice is all the student needs. Please do not underestimate the importance of regular review at home. Family participation in Shabbat services will also provide opportunities for reading practice.

Tzedakah Project

Our sages taught that when one practices tzedakah, it is as though he or she had filled the world with loving kindness. Although often translated as “charity,” tzedakah is not equivalent to charity. Rather, its root means “justice.” Tzedakah/justice is a biblical and rabbinic concept that embodies the idea that Jews are obligated to pursue social and economic justice. Therefore, Jewish tradition dictates helping those in need – and by doing so, becoming partners with God in the task of creating a more perfect world. Students are expected to participate in a tzedakah project during the Bar/Bar Mitzvah year.

WHAT DOES A BAR/BAT MITZVAH DO?

Friday Evening

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah will be called to the bimah to read the meditation that introduces the Kiddush and then to join in leading the congregation in the singing of the Kiddush prayer. The Kiddush cup used during the service is your child’s first gift from the congregation.

Saturday Morning

There are three important tasks that a Bar/Bat Mitzvah has at a Shabbat morning service: To be a Sh’liach/Sh’lichat Tzibur (a leader of worship), serve as a Ba’al/at Kriah (one who reads or chants from the weekly Torah and Haftarah portion), and become a Darshan/Darshanit (one who offers a D’var Torah, a teaching on the weekly portion). Participation in these roles is central to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience.

Sh’liach/Sh’licha Tzibur

One of the most prestigious roles in the synagogue is to be the Sh’liach/Sh’licha Tzibur. Literally, the “representative of the community,” the Sh’liach/Sh’licha Tzibur leads the congregation in prayer. Another name for this role is Ba’al/at T’fila which translates as “the one who has mastered the prayer.” Essentially they mean the same thing – the one who leads the worship service. Each Bar/Bat Mitzvah student will have the honor of filling this sacred role.

Ba’al/Ba’alat Kriah

Each Bar/Bat Mitzvah assumes the role of the Ba’al/Ba’alat K’riah by becoming one of the Torah readers for the day. This entails the learning of the three verse maftir (the concluding section) from the weekly Torah portion. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah will be the final Torah reader that morning: s/he will chant the Torah blessings and then read or chant the verses s/he has prepared.

Following the reading of Torah, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah student will chant or read the Haftarah or secondary biblical reading.

Students are strongly encouraged to chant both their Torah and Haftarah portions. The melodies are beautiful and greatly enhance the worship experience.

An Important Note:

Our congregation takes great pride in making every Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration special, even though the participation of each student is basically the same. There are occasions, however, when special circumstances necessitate an adjustment in the student’s participation. We will do everything possible to work with each student as an individual, with the ultimate goal of maximizing his or her self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. Please feel free to discuss any concerns you might have with either of the Rabbis.

The D’var Torah

Following the reading of the Torah and Haftarah portions, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will deliver a D’var Torah that typically is about five minutes long and 500-750 words.

WHAT DO THE PARENT(S) AND OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS DO?

The Bar or Bat Mitzvah ceremony marks an important event in the lives not only of the child, but also the parents. It marks a milestone in the fulfillment of the commandment in the Shema, to “teach them (God’s commandments) diligently to your children…” (Deuteronomy 4:7). As you prepare to celebrate this achievement, keep in mind the words of the ancient sage who said “He who hears his son (or in our day, daughter) recite a portion of the Torah is as though he heard it at Mt. Sinai.”

Besides kvelling (swelling with pride and delight), parental involvement in a Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration includes:

Friday Evening

A Jewish mother or father can kindle the Shabbat candles. Another Jewish relative can also be given this honor. The entire congregation will come together for the Oneg Shabbat (or pre-Oneg if it is an early service). It is traditional for the family of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to be the hosts that Friday.

Saturday Morning

Family and friends have the opportunity to participate in the service as follows:

  • The giving of aliyot (blessings recited before and after the Torah reading) is considered a great honor. You may have one or two aliyot, selecting either four or eight Jewish family members or friends to read the blessings before and after the Torah.  You may also select two family members or friends to help dress the Torah after it is read. A non-Jewish parent is welcome to dress the Torah if the experience will be meaningful to him or her.
  • Jewish members of the immediate family are encouraged to read or chant Torah themselves either at the Shabbat evening or Shabbat morning service. Please let the Rabbis know if either a sibling or parent is interested in participating in this way.
  • Siblings who already are B’nei Mitzvah can participate in an aliyah. Siblings who are not yet B’nei Mitzvah can help dress the Torah (although the placing the mantle over the Torah requires height) and/or lead the Motzi at the Kiddush.
  • Parents have the privilege of joining their child at the pulpit as s/he reads from the Torah.
  • Parents and siblings are invited to join the Bar/Bat Mitzvah as s/he accompanies the Rabbi to the Ark for the priestly benediction. The family will then recite the words of the Shehecheyanu together.
  • You may select one of the Rabbis or a Temple member who is a past or present board member or once served on the Torah Center faculty, to make a brief presentation of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Certificate and gifts from the Temple, the Brotherhood and the Women of Temple Emanuel, NFTY and the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.
  • During the singing of the closing hymn, parents, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, siblings and grandparents gather at the base of the pulpit.
  • A Jewish family member will lead Kiddush and Motzi.

PLANNING YOUR SIMCHA

As soon as your date is confirmed, you should begin thinking and planning. Leslie Hoffman, the Temple Emanuel Executive Director, will be in touch with you to guide you through the Friday night Oneg Shabbat and Saturday morning’s Kiddush plans.

You may want to consider a Shabbat dinner at Temple either before or after services for your family and out of town guests.  This is a lovely way to begin your simcha weekend.

On Shabbat, following the Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, you may choose to hold a formal Kiddush consisting of wine, white grape juice, challah and assorted pastries, a Stand-Up Kiddush including finger foods (i.e. wraps, fruit kabobs, etc.) or a buffet or sit-down luncheon for congregants and your invited guests. Our social hall is also available for Saturday evening parties.

Please remember that our Temple is a lovely and convenient facility for hosting your simcha. You many choose to use our in-house caterer or an outside caterer from our approved list. We will, of course, help you in every way.

Please contact Leslie Hoffman to discuss your plans and ask any questions.