Bar / Bat Mitzvah

Woodside Park Bnei Mitzvah Programme

We are very excited to announce our new programme for boys and girls coming up to Bar and Bat Mitzvah. This very exciting programme, incorporating ‘Kolot’ for girls, and ‘Netivot’ for boys, runs in Year 7, and is for all children, regardless of whether they go to Jewish schools or have any other arrangements for Jewish education.

 

For more details please click here

Bat Mitzvah

Girls reach Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12. It is popular for the Bat Mitzvah girl to celebrate this occasion by delivering a Dvar Torah in shul on a Shabbat morning.

 

To view previous D'var Torah please click here

Bar Mitzvah

A boy becomes Bar Mitzvah on his 13th hebrew birthday. The sedra on which he can have his first call-up or Aliyah is determined by his date and time of birth. The Rabbi can confim the correct date with you.

For Both Bar / Bat Mitzvah

Both parents are able to join the Rabbi downstairs in front of the ark and bless their daughter  /  son with the traditional priestly blessing (which is customary for parents to do on Friday nights).

 

The Rabbi will say the Hebrew and the parents will say the English, Please discuss with the Rabbi for details.

 
The History of Batmitzvah
by Estelle Phillips

Adult Batmitzvahs have gradually become quite popular in the States over the last few years, but they have hardly got off the ground over here. I did some research to see what I could discover about the Batmitzvah as part of our heritage 

and this is what I found. 

 

According to the archivist at the Great Synagogue in Rome, the custom of a young woman being called up in synagogue before the entire congregation dates back to the early years of the Roman Jewish community approximately 2,300 years ago. The people recognized her as 'being of age' and acknowledged her in a public fashion. 

 

Jewish communities of France and Italy created group bat mitzvah celebrations, (Bat chayil?) which were designed to be a culmination of intense study at age 12. It was customary to gather the bat mitzvah girls and the community during a weekday, have the girls stand in front of the open ark, and recite prayers, including a special prayer written for them and Shehechiyanu. Then the rabbi spoke and blessed the girls and their families. Afterwards, there was a Se’udat mitzvah at the girls’ homes. 

 

Using the term as we do today, to imply a ceremony or  simcha related to the coming of age is an innovation dating only as far back as the 13th century. The seed for this celebration can be found in Mishnah Pirkei Avot 5:25, which describes the life stages worthy of recognition: ‘At five for Scripture, at 10 for Mishna, at 13 for Miztvot, at 15 for Gemara and at 18 for marriage . . . ‘

 

From about the 15th century onward, references can be found with more regularity concerning some ceremonial bar mitzvah event. 

 

The bat mitzvah celebration is even newer and less common than its male counterpart, nevertheless some historic indicators do exist. For example, Rabbi Yitzchak Nissim, late Sephardi chief Rabbi of Israel, quotes from a 17th century rabbi who says that bat mitzvah is a day of celebration and the dinner is considered a ‘se’udat mitzvah‘. This would support more modern documents that record  Orthodox Jewish Italian and Iraqi rites for becoming bat mitzvah since the mid-19th century.

 

It is important to note that the terms Bar/Bat mitzvah  refer to the legal status given to a boy or girl at a specific age of life according to Jewish law; it is NOT a status achieved through a specific ceremony. One becomes a bar mitzvah at 13 years and one day or a bat mitzvah at 12 years and one day. One does not ‘become bar mitzvah‘ed’ by having a special occasion, synagogue- or party-wise. The bar/bat mitzvah ceremony is an act of public acknowledgement of a status automatically conferred.

 

Yet many women who have never had a Batmitzvah believe, incorrectly, that they have missed the opportunity to experience one. They think their only opportunity is to wait until they reach the age of what would have been their second Batmitzvah. But, as we have seen, once the age of 12 years and a day has been passed the celebration can happen at any time. 

 

In Rabbi Yosef Chaim’s book Ben Ish Chai, a rabbi from Baghdad talks about the day of a girl’s bat mitzvah as a day  on which she should wear a new outfit (a good enough reason for any of us!?) so that she can say ‘She’he’chiyanu’ and acknowledge her entrance to 'ol mitzvot' (the ‘burden of mitzvot‘). So it appears that, historically, precedence for the bat mitzvah celebration can be traced almost as far back as the bar mitzvah.

 

All this may have influenced the American rabbi Mordecai M. Kaplan who held the first public celebration of a bat mitzvah in the United States, for his daughter Judith, on March 18,1922. At the time, most Orthodox rabbis strongly rejected the idea of a bat mitzvah ceremony. 

 

As the ceremony became accepted for females as well as males, women chose to celebrate it even though they were much older, as a way of formalizing and marking their place in the adult Jewish community. Bat mitzvahs are not only for pre-teens any more. The adult bat mitzvah is still a coming-of-age ceremony but, at an older age, women are approaching the milestone from a more self-aware and appreciative perspective. So why are they coming to it so late? 

 

Some are women who were born to Holocaust survivors. For them the ritual is an affirmation of a long-denied identity. Others, in their 80s and 90s missed out because the concept only existed for boys when they were young.

All the focus was on the Barmitzvah. But for Adult women the Batmitzvah can provide a sense of inclusion and satisfaction. Perhaps the biggest difference between celebrating batmitzvah at 12, and at 55 or 91 is that at  age 12, the experience is the starting point of girls' teenage years, when they will branch out into different lives. Older Batmitzvah celebrants, on the other hand, have already lived much of those lives. For a girl, the ceremony marks a point of departure. For an adult woman the Batmitzvah can mark an arrival.    902  (5 mins) 

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