Often, during our Saturday morning service, we celebrate b’nai mitzvah. In Jewish tradition, this is when a young person begins to take on the rights and responsibilities of an adult in the religious community at the age of thirteen. At that age, those who identify as boys become “bar mitzvah,” which means a “son of the commandments.” Those who identify as girls become “bat mitzvah,” or “daughter of the commandments.” The plural is “b’nai mitzvah” – children of the commandments – which also is a term used by some children who identify as non-binary or gender fluid.
The b’nai mitzvah ceremony formally marks the occasion when one has the right to take part in leading religious services and the responsibility to perform mitzvot (commandments). It is an opportunity to welcome the young person into our congregation as a full spiritual member of the Jewish community.
In its earliest and most basic form, a b’nai mitzvah is the celebrant's first aliyah (literally “going up”), the honor of saying the blessings before and after the reading of the Torah (the handwritten scroll of the 5 books of Moses). The Torah is the first part of the Hebrew Bible, also known as the Tanakh, which also includes the Prophets (e.g. Jeremiah, Isaiah) and the Writings (e.g. Psalms, Proverbs).
At Rodeph Shalom, a b’nai mitzvah student learns and recites the weekly Torah portion and the haftarah portion (selection from the Prophets) in its traditional chant (trope). The celebrant also leads part of the worship service and gives a d’var Torah (literally a “word of Torah”), which is a teaching that reflects their understanding of their Torah portion and how it applies to life today.
B’nai mitzvah generally occurs during 7th or 8th grade. At Rodeph Shalom, Jewish learning continues through 12th grade and culminates in a special community celebration of all that the teens have learned and the relationships they have built.
It is customary to wish a hearty “mazel tov” (wish of congratulations) to the b’nai mitzvah and their families. Congregation Rodeph Shalom wishes you a Shabbat Shalom – a peaceful Sabbath.
2 Year Timeline
1 Year Timeline
CRS Mitzvah Packet