wtori an Tea Pa rl o.t.
a guide to simchahs
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Some words of wisdom on your upcoming bar/bat mitzvah.
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azel tov on your upcoming simchah! It's never too early to
start thinking about your bar or bat mitzvah, and I advise
you to approach this important rite of passage not as a sort
of graduation ceremony, but as a meaningful transition toward Jewish
Becoming a bar or bat mitzvah is an exciting opportunity. I use the
word "becoming" here intentionally. In our tradition, bar and bat mitz-
vah is not something that just happens to us, but an event that requires
the bar or bat mitzvah to take an active role. The more you make the
process your own, the more momentous it will be.
I have three questions that I hope will help you think about ways to
make your bar or bat mitzvah as meaningful to you and your family as
What is important to you?
What do you love to do? What's
important to you? Are you a musi-
cian or artist? Do you have a favorite
hobby? I urge you to think about
ways to incorporate your passions
into your bar or bat mitzvah experi-
ence. Talk to your rabbi, cantor or an
educator at your synagogue about
how to do this. You might be sur-
prised at the many ways you could
A bar mitzvah boy reads his Torah
make your bar or bat mitzvah a
portion at the Western Wall.
more personalized experience. I have
worked with teens who have brought a love of cooking into their learn-
ing process. One teen, in addition to studying about different ways of
celebrating Passover, studied recipes from all over the world and cooked
some of them for her family's Passover seder.
What can you contribute to your community?
One of the most important aspects of becoming bat or bar mitzvah is
taking on greater responsibility in your community. Ask yourself how
you can make a difference. The answer to this question might be based
on one of the interests you thought about in the previous question, or
it could be based on something you might think is missing or should be
improved in your community. I know teens who have started nonprofit
organizations or lobbied their elected representatives to make real
change. Don't let your age stop you. It can be challenging to find the
right opportunities when you are young, but there is so much you have
to offer and so much your community needs.
What might you want to teach?
Teaching is another way of adding your voice to the Jewish people in an
essential way. When you teach something, it forces you to become a spe-
cialist in that area. I worked with one bat mitzvah student whose Torah
portion included the passage that discusses the obligation to remember
and keep Shabbat. She studied the Torah text and its commentaries and
found related contemporary texts and works of poetry, art and music
that exemplified what keeping Shabbat meant to her. After her bat mitz-
vah, she turned this into a four-session adult study seminar!
All of these suggestions will be easier to do in partnership with an
adult in your congregation. But, don't wait to be asked — make an
appointment with your rabbi, cantor, teachers or other community lead-
ers to discuss ways to make your bat or bar mitzvah one of the most
meaningful milestones in your life.
Rabbi Bradley Solmsen is the Director of Youth
Engagement at the Union for Reform Judaism.