As I think of bar and bat mitzvahs I have conducted or attended, I think of how important this day is in the life of a young person. Jewish tradition has this rite of passage occur when a young man or women turns 13. They are a newly minded teenager with all that that means. A new part of life has begun. We give them a celebration that recognizes their budding adulthood.
While I sitting shiva for my mother one night almost six years ago, I looked around and realized we did not have a minyan – 10 Jewish adults – the number needed to conduct a service. Traditionally, of course, that meant 10 men but in modern liberal Judaism, we consider men and women to be equal. So I looked around and realized that my neighbor’s son had just become a bar mitzvah! He was now a Jewish adult and could be counted on to participate in the shiva service. So someone ran over to get him and he took his place as a responsible Jewish adult. What a joy to have him! And for him, how important to have value in the neighborhood and in the Jewish community.
Studying and learning some of the Jewish prayers, giving the new bat or bar mitzvah a tallis and a kiddish cup, handing the Torah from one generation to another, all add to this wonderful mitzvah.
It is an honor to study and learn with a young person and then to be there on this special day in their lives – one they will never forget!