B. Mitzvah: Coming of Age

B. Mitzvah is a milestone marker on a lifelong journey of Jewish growth, learning, and celebration. For ourchildren, at age 13 or beyond, it is the first time they take their place in our community as leaders of prayer and teachers of Torah.  For adults in our community, is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the extraordinary people our children are becoming, as they share their mastery of language, melody, interpretation, and the challenge of public presentation.  For all of us, it is a lifecycle moment when we come together as friends and families.   

It is a moment of launching.  Until this point in our children’s Jewish education, we have largely directed them about what to learn and how to learn it.  While our children are not yet adults, they are beginning young adulthood, with capacity for new critical thinking, independence, and responsibility.  They are asking—and we want for them to consider—new and deeper questions about what it means to be kind, compassionate, and caring human beings, and new and deeper questions about what it means to be Jewish and to be part of Jewish community. Now, post-B. Mitzvah, they will have more and more opportunities to shape the Jewish lives they want to live and to choose where they want to delve most deeply into learning and practice. 

It is possible to celebrate being “of age” at any time after turning 13 years old.  If your child is joining our community at an older age, or if you as a parent are interested in celebrating B. Mitzvah yourself(!), we have paths for this as well. 

Why “B. Mitzvah”?

The “B.” of this celebration can stand for so many things:  not only for the B. in “Bat Mitzvah” (daughter of the commandment), “Bar Mitzvah” (son of the commandment), or “B’nei/B’not Mitzvah” (children of the commandment), but also for the B. in Becoming, Belief, Brit (covenant), and Being.  Across the spectrum of our chilren’s identities, we are here to walk with them on this journey into young adulthood. 

What Our Children Do

We invite our children to demonstrate their new status as young adults and the new ways that they are capable of Jewish responsibility through:

  • Teaching:
    • Torah: InstructionReading from the Torah scroll and offering blessings over the reading of Torah, both of which are considered a great honor, and reading from the Haftarah, a selection of readings from the biblical books of the Prophets.
    • Offering their own interpretation (drash) of Torah, showing that they are teachers in our midst with their own unique view of how our ancient text connects to our contemporary experience.
  • Leading:
    • Avodah: PrayerLeading our prayer service on behalf of our community.
  • Taking Responsibility for Our World:
    • G’milut Chasadim: Acts of LovingkindnessDeveloping, carrying out, and presenting a Mitzvah Project, through which they take on some area of brokenness in the world, reflect on this experience, and teach others about it. 
  • Festivity:
    • Seudat Mitzvah:  A “Feast” of CelebrationCelebrating in a way that is true to who your child is and to your values – and what you most value – as a family. 

While our synagogue community has a most commonly traveled path of preparation, at TST we understand that each child and each family is unique. We work with each family in order to create a B. Mitzvah experience that is a reflection of each child’s heart and spirit, so that each will become a leader of prayer and a teacher of Torah in the most authentic way. 

When and Where We Celebrate

Traditionally, it is possible to celebrate becoming B. Mitzvah whenever Torah is traditionally read as part of a service.  In our TST community, we most often celebrate our children during our Late Shabbat Morning Service.  In some circumstances, families prefer to celebrate during our more intimate Early Shabbat Morning Service, and some families choose to celebrate B. Mitzvah in Israel as part of one of our TST family trips.  

 The B. Mitzvah Journey: A group and individual path of learning and exploration

Our children ready themselves for B. Mitzvah through both group and individual preparation, along with participation in Temple life.  Family learning opportunities and community building as part of the B. Mitzvah Journey are woven into Hineini, our K-6th learning program, from 4th grade on.  Our students’ learning continues in our TSTeen programs around and beyond the milestone B. Mitzvah experience, through their high school years. 

We begin anticipating children’s individual B. Mitzvah journeys at the end of 4th grade, when families take part in a process to find a celebration date for their child. In the final year leading up to each child’s celebration of B. Mitzvah (typically beginning in 6th or 7th grade), each child is matched with a tutor who guides them along the path of mastering the prayers, Torah reading, and Haftarah reading that they will lead that day. Along the course of that year, every student works closely with each of our clergy, in a series of personal meetings in which our rabbis and cantor helps them to write a Drash (their own Torah teaching) and to practice the skills they will need to stand before our community with confidence. Our clergy work closely with parents as well, to make sure that this is a day of meaning that honors each family.

Celebrating as a Jewish+ (Interfaith) family

Our TST families come in many sizes, shapes, and configurations, with faith background being only one among many factors that make each family unique.  If you, or your immediate or extended family includes members who are from other faith traditions, or no tradition at all – our aim is to get to celebrate with you, to include all of your family members in our celebration, and to welcome your whole family in to a meaningful and joyous celebration, just as we would for any other family.  We understand that the Jewish service, which relies heavily on Hebrew and involves ancient traditions, is not understandable to all, and we work hard to provide context for our rituals as we move through them in our service. 

All family and friends are welcome to take part in honors throughout our service including opening the Ark, dressing the Torah, and reading a selection of English prayers on behalf of the community.  We look forward to being in conversation with you about what all of this feels like and means in your family. 

Mazel Tov! Let’s Celebrate!

There is no one single way to celebrate following a B. Mitzvah service, and our TST families make a wide range of choices about how to mark this occasion in ways that honor their child and their family: Temple-wide potluck “kiddush” lunches, outings or trips with friends or family, dance parties, group social action projects, and more. As you begin to plan your celebration, we would be happy to help you think about what could be the best fit for your family or can put you in touch with other families who have made similar choices.