B'nai Mitzvah FAQs

What is Bar/Bat/B’nai/B’not Mitzvah?

In modern Hebrew, “ben” is son, “bat” is daughter, “banim” is sons  and “banot” are daughters. “Bar” is an older, Aramaic way of recognizing male-identifying followers of “mitzvot,” or commandments. “Bat” would recognize female-identifying followers of mitzvot and “B’nai” would recognize non-gender-specific or plural followers when there is at least one male-identifying student. “B’not” would recognize when there are more than one female-identifying followers of mitzvot.

Who Is Eligible to Become a Bar/Bat/B’nai/B’not Mitzvah?

When a student reaches the age of 13, they may recite the Torah blessings and read a portion from one of our scrolls. There are no exceptions for allowing this to take place earlier. If a student is born in the months of July or August, they are automatically given priority in choosing the eligible fall dates following the summer of their 13th year. Adults over the age of 18 are encouraged to participate in our Adult B’nai Mitzvah studies, which are offered when there is an interest expressed. If you are an adult who is interested, please reach out to our office for more details. Students must be registered in Berkman Mercaz Limud from 3rd-7th grade. 

When Does the Process at Rodeph Shalom begin?

Truly, from the moment that a student enters our BML religious school program, we are excited for the opportunity to share our love of Torah. When a student reaches the 4th grade, their families are invited to participate in a Sunday morning workshop where all the eligible dates are offered. Each step is explained in detail, as well as leaving an opportunity for asking important questions and expressing personal need. Of course, we welcome opportunities to discuss each family’s needs at any time. 

What Are the Next Steps After the 4th Grade Workshop?

Approximately 7-8 months from the assigned date, families will be invited to meet with Rabbi Maderer to be formally welcomed into the process.

What Days and Times Does RS Hold Services for B’nai Mitzvah?

All services with B’nai Mitzvah are held on Saturday mornings at 10:45 a.m. We understand that there are other times to read from the Torah in many communities, but we welcome our students to our bima on Shabbat mornings, only.

What Does a Bar/Bat/B’nei/B’not Mitzvah Prepare to Lead?

Becoming a B’nai Mitzvah is a big responsibility, as each one is preparing to be counted as a full member of our community and eligible in the most basic gathering for prayer. Every student will be assigned a Torah and Haftarah portion according to the week of their service and will be given 12 verses of Torah and approximately 3-5 verses of Haftarah. In addition, they will be asked to lead some blessings (Friday evening Kiddush, V’ahav’ta, Avot v’Imahot, G’vurot, Torah Blessings and Haftarah Blessings) as well as some English readings. While Torah and Haftarah verses are assigned and given at the time a student is paired with their tutor, the other blessings and materials are always available upon request or on our website. Finally, each student will meet and discuss their Torah portion with Rabbi Freedman to develop their Div’rei Torah or main teaching derived from their portion. It is a chance to make some very old lessons modern and relevant.

What is the 'B’nai Mitzvah Launch?'

Approximately 6-8 months prior to your confirmed B’nai Mitzvah ceremony, you will have an important meeting with Rabbi Maderer, where your families will be formally introduced to our philosophy and expectations for our B’nai Mitzvah process. You will also be given a binder of study materials and B’nai Mitzvah project suggestions, which can always be accessed online in addition to your printed copy for ease of replacement or duplication. You will be encouraged to begin to schedule important meeting dates and times with your tutor, rabbis and our cantor.

When Does Tutoring Begin?

Each student will have approximately 18 weekly sessions with a tutor and 4-6 sessions at the end with Cantor Hyman. These lessons should be scheduled very shortly after the launch meeting. It is important to know that Congregation Rodeph Shalom is not responsible for providing additional private tutoring beyond the 18 sessions but there are other ways to support this important education by regular attendance at BML and Shabbat services on Friday evening or Saturday morning.

When Will We Discuss the D’var Torah (Teaching On Torah)?

The meetings with Rabbi Freedman to discuss your child’s teaching which they will offer after reading Torah and Haftarah portions should be scheduled to occur approximately two months prior to the date of your service. These two meetings, idyllically spaced over a few weeks, should help your child grasp the deeper meanings within the Torah portion and should also help direct them towards being able to speak about it. There is no reason to wait for these meetings before doing your own investigation and study. Feel free to read what other scholars have come up with, as we have the collective wisdom of thousands of years of study available on various websites including Sefaria.org. We learn something new every time we study these portions and it will be so wonderful to add your child’s voice to our study.

What if My Child’s Schedule is Too Full?

We completely understand that the lives of our students are seemingly more expanded, more complicated and more actively involved than ever before. In addition to the demands of our schools and academic calendar, we have a full range of extra-curricular athletic programs, clubs, volunteerism and family gatherings, trips and holiday celebrations. However, none of these priorities should feel like a surprise. This moment in time has arrived sooner than we may have believed, but here we are and just as we are dedicated to our clubs, our teams and our families we are also committed to our community and over 5,700 years of changing traditions. Please make B’nai Mitzvah preparation a priority for both you and your students, and we will help you fulfill your obligations in bringing your children to know Torah. Our tutors and clergy schedules are flexible enough to work with you but setting aside dedicated time every week is an expectation for every family.

What Happens The Week Prior?

On the Saturday morning services the week-prior to your scheduled celebration, plan to attend as you and your family will be acting as formal greeters as worshipers and guests are arriving. You will give them the handouts, help direct them to key locations in our building, and assist them in feeling welcome and comfortable. This is something that another family will do for you during your weekend celebration, so please consider this your way to continue to pay-it-forward.

On the Tuesday afternoon, just prior to the weekend of your celebration, you will have a meeting (most often led by Rabbi Maderer) that will go through your service as fully as possible. Be prepared with all your materials (binder with printed service, blessings, D’var Torah) as well as the very shoes you will be wearing so we can help adjust for height and to better acclimate when carrying a Torah scroll around our sanctuary. This is also a time when any notes regarding pronunciation or spelling of names for honors, any changes or shared responsibilities for who will be leading blessings, or any shortening of readings will be made prior to printing our hand outs. You will be reading from the actual Torah scroll.

On the Friday evening for your Shabbat, you will be participating in helping bring in Shabbat by lighting the candles, reciting the blessing over the candles, and then reciting the kiddush or blessing over the fruit of the vine. Please plan on being present but also feel free to invite other family or friends who are in-town to celebrate and share in the fullness of celebrating Shabbat.

What Happens on The Morning-Of?

If you desire to take photographs with family prior to services, please make arrangements so we have the timing of your arrival as well as having all of the proper documentation and releases from your photographer. A final walkthrough as well as helping honorees (those saying blessings, dressing or undressing the Torah scroll, lifting the Torah scroll) to practice will take place at 9:30 a.m. Photos can be taken and ‘staged’ during this walkthrough but there will be a priority towards making everyone aware of and comfortable with their responsibilities. While photography is allowed from atop our balcony, there is NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY at any time during the service. Use of flash is allowed during the walkthrough.

Following the walkthrough, the immediate family will assemble in our chapel at 10:30 a.m. for the giving of gifts from a Board of Trustees member, as well as reciting the blessing and putting on the tallit, and receiving final words of encouragement from your clergy. Photographers are welcome. Services start at 10:45 a.m. and will run approximately until noon.