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Let's Have Second, Third, and Later Bar/Bat Mitzvahs
By Zoltan Fischer
am proposing to the Jewish community additional
opportunities for an
individual to reflect upon and celebrate his/her
committment to our
values and people. My idea is to have a bar or bat mitzvah every thirteen years, at 13, 26, 39, 52, 65, and so on.
Some might say that a person's examination of his/her Jewish ties should go on all the time and certainly occur more often than every thirteen years. Of course it should, but a recognized opportunity and special occasion would certainly help. As adults, we get busy with relationships/marriage, children, and careers. Jewish consciousness is crowded out by seemingly more urgent daily issues. I feel it would be
for the synagogues to offer this new program to their
would a person's
second, third, or other bar/bat mizvah consist of? Here are some suggestions. I want to make it thought-provoking,
refreshing in a
spiritual sense, and happy, but not too
Most important is the personal thought that occurs around the anniversary but I would suggest these four specific components:
- A weekly or bi-weekly discussion group at the synagogue for members approaching one of these later bar/bat mitzvahs. The group would deal with spirituality, the challenges of adult Jewishness, current events, etc. It would be suggested that a person take part for six months.
- Preparation of a personal statement, an essay on the person's Jewishness of the past thirteen years and the next thirteen years. This would be both a critique and a plan.
- A private discussion with a rabbi or other community leader about adult expressions of Judaism.
- Participation in a bar-mitzvah anniversary synagogue service that might include:
- An oral presentation of his/her personal statement
- Some liturgical activity including a call to the Torah reading
- A special prayer/blessing that has to do with renewal of the Jewish people's and the individual's Covenant.
- A modest celebration with family, friends, and congregation.
I am hoping that these renewal occasions celebrated at 13-year intervals by adults would bring about a greater consciousness of Jewish ethnic and religious identity and most importantly, a greater effort to incorporate Jewish values into all aspects of adult life (relationships, families, work places, and communal projects).
The addition of the bar/bat mitzvahs can be easily implemented at the synagogue level. As rabbis, please consider taking the following steps:
Please send your questions and comments to me at my
website's email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
- After getting the synagogue leadership's approval, explaining this new possibility to the congregation, using sermons, newsletter, and in-person contacts.
- Publicizing the celebrations and the underlying ideas, using the city-wide papers or electronic media at your disposal.
- Spreading the new "custom" to the national level by taking advantage of the major forums of American Jewry.
I believe we will be doing a good thing in the area of revitalization and taking another nice step toward thoughtful adult Judaism. These are my motivations.
from the March 2006 Edition of the Jewish Magazine