Teachings: Evolution Of Judaism

Major Contrasts in Jewish Practice

Because change is one of the constants of Jewish life, the variations in customs, laws, and practices at any point in our history are quite fascinating. It’s important from the outset for you to be fully aware that individual homes, congregations, and even certain neighborhoods and individual communities within those neighborhoods, have their own uniquely nuanced Jewish culture, norms, and guidelines. For example, there are Jewish communities where the norm is:

What Age for Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah?

B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

Parenting Today

Bar/Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution

The B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

Re-infusing meaning, relevance and spirituality into Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah is what families request, when given the opportunity for input. I did my doctorate on this topic and that was the overwhelming finding. Families report needing help to overcome the often toxic social and educational norms that have arisen regarding the B'nei Mitzvah process and to revision and adopt healthy new models.

History and Development of Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah

Bar Mitzvah was not a biblical practice. It was introduced during the rabbinic period as a rite where a father, who is satisfied he has raised a son ready to live an engaged Jewish life, comes before his community and recites a blessing in which the father frees himself from monitoring his son's Jewish practices. In the late eighteen hundreds a gradual shift from the parental rite to that of a youth having an aliyah at the Torah (serving as an adult witness to the reading) becomes termed bar mitzvah.

History and Development of Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues!

Bar Mitzvah was not a biblical practice. It was introduced during the rabbinic period as a rite where a father, who is satisfied he has raised a son ready to live an engaged Jewish life, comes before his community and recites a blessing in which the father frees himself from monitoring his son's Jewish practices. In the late eighteen hundreds a gradual shift from the parental rite to that of a youth having an aliyah at the Torah (serving as an adult witness to the reading) becomes termed bar mitzvah.

Holy Rolers: Who Are You Becoming in Community?

The Bar/Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution continues!

It's great fun to have a special role in your community. It's also holy, we call these roles Shevet Shomrei Kodesh, Tribal Guardians of Holiness. Here are some examples to develop for yourself, students, grandchildren, etc!   Can you expand this list? Who do you know for whom one or some of these roles would be an exciting fit or identity to try on with meaningful mentoring and community support?

Sample Story "A Father's Gift" from Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning

by Noa Baum from Mitzvah Stories: Seeds for Inspiration and Learning, Goldie Milgram and Ellen Frankel [Eds] with Peninnah Schram, Cherie Karo-Schwartz and Arthur Strimling

     Bilal grew up in Lahore, in the Punjab province of Pakistan. When he was a young boy there was a war between India and Pakistan, and Bilal asked his father:
     “Baba, why do the Muslims and Hindus hate each other? Why is there all this war?”

What Can We Learn from B'nei Mitzvah Past?

Bmitzvah.org: B Mitzvah! The Bar and Bat Mitzvah (R)evolution

A Jew from Yemen once told me how he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah back in the land of his birth. What left an indelible impression on him was staying up all the previous night with his grandfather, and together reciting the entire Book of Psalms. Submitted by Rabbi Monty Eliasov, Austin, TX

Beth Ornstein was bat mitzvah in 2002. "This has been the best year of my life. I really worked hard, and everyone had a great time. My grandmother came from England, she’s 84. I was so happy to see her." Beth has a book of pictures and memorabilia she’d created from the event, it was bursting with masks and every note sent back to indicate attendance had a blessing on it. That it seems, was her teacher’s idea. "She taught us to make the return cards a spiritual message to lift each other’s spirits on the path to bat mitzvah. That works, you know!" What about the masks? "My bat mitzvah as around Purim time. I researched every midrash I could find about Queen Esther and wrote one of my own. I asked my friends to write midrashim (story commentaries) as presents for me, a few really did! They read their at the party and then they surprised me with a skit about Queen Vashti. Then everyone sang the Esther song, even the stodgiest people in our family got into the spirit of it. It was a day to remember!"