In Twenty-first Century America, Bar and Bat Mitzvah has taken on new meanings. First of all, Bar and Bat Mitzvah formally marks the beginning of the process of maturation that leads to adulthood. One’s teen years are qualitatively different from one’s childhood, because the child accepts increasing responsibility for his or her own decisions and has arrived at a new level of autonomous growth.
At Temple Beth Torah, as at most American Reform synagogues, Bar and Bat Mitzvah also stands for the achievement of competence in synagogue skills. By thirteen, a Bar or Bat Mitzvah student should feel at home with Jewish liturgy, know its structure, be able to chant the basic prayers, be comfortable with the tallit and kippah, be capable of preparing a Torah reading and explaining it to the congregation.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah are a celebration of human potential. When a young person leads a congregation in prayer, and reads and teaches Torah and haftarah, we recognize the great good that he or she will be able to contribute to the Jewish people and society. The student is demonstrating in a public way his or her readiness to participate in the Jewish community as an adult. The years of study and the ceremony itself instill in the youngster a sense of accomplishment, meaning and identity.
In no way does Bar or Bat Mitzvah signal the end of one’s Jewish education; to the contrary, Bar and Bat Mitzvah are the foundation upon which serious adult Jewish education is built. After their Bar and Bat Mitzvah the students are just now ready to learn about Judaism in an adult way. For this reason we expect all Bar and Bat Mitzvah students to agree to continue through Confirmation (Kabalat Torah – Receiving the Torah) at the conclusion of 10th grade. The middle and high school program (grades 6-12) are the place in which they start to discover Judaism’s answers to the dilemmas of modern life.
Our B’nei Mitzvah Program is built upon 13 Steps; seven Required Steps, and six Personal Steps that bar and bat mitzvah students choose for themselves. Learn all about the TBT B’nei Mizvah program by reading the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Handbook.
You can also read much more about the origins, meaning, and celebration of b’nei mitzvah at Reform Judaism’s website.