Teachings: Physical, Emotional, Mental: Changes & Challenges

Four Cross Cultural Examples of Adolescent Rites of Passage

To what end bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah? Across cultural look at adolescent rites of passage along with the Story of Pachi help us take a look at our own rite with new eyes.

The Mescalero Girls’ Puberty Ceremony.

The ceremony is conducted by men determined to be holy by the tribe, beyond reproach. Each Holy Man/Singer must be intelligent and able to memorize and interpret songs in a special form of Mescalero Apache. Each must sing 64 different songs on each of the four nights of the Ceremony Additionally, the Singer must memorize long stories of the people, their travels, and accounts of tribal interacts from the beginning to the present. The Ceremony is thus a re-enactment of events from the beginning of cosmological time and a recitation of ethno-history.

What Age Bar Mitzvah? What Age Bat Mitzvah?

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

Please don’t undertake a Bar/bat mitzvah process of learning and planning a ritual and celebration just because everyone else is doing it, or because of parental or communal pressure. It is right to undertake Bar/bat mitzvah when one is developmentally willing, curious, and has the time to learn new things about being Jewish and about oneself.

Working with a Challenging Student: Bar Mitzvah Special Education

B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

In this narrative, Heftsi Assaf, an attention deficit disorder specialist with a great love and skill in bar/t mitzvah tutoring, shares her inner thoughts and ways of working with a challenging student.

When I first met Natan’s mother, she told me that he was a very special kid. I didn't think it was out of the ordinary, most parents think that their kids are special. Especially when I meet with them the first time (and after) they can become very protective when the student struggles between doing his or her homework and preparing for their Bar/t Mitzvah [b-mitzvah from here-on]. In addition, I deal with parents projecting their own "experience" growing up and having to go to Sunday or religious school onto what it will be like today. Furthermore, they also worry the experience will be like what they had during their own B’nei Mitzvah years. So, parents, at times, seem to already have the curriculum for their child even before they met me.

Does Circumcision Matter?


Dear Reb Shohama,

My husband and I are expecting a boy, and are struggling with the issue of circumcision. Our reading leads us to believe it is a barbaric and patriarchal remnant of Judaism, causing unnecessary pain to the child. Moreover, there seems to be no significant medical benefit. What can you tell me? Sincerely, Susan


Dear Susan,

I understand your dilemma. There is a body of literature that portrays circumcision in this way, and I, too, have struggled hard with this issue.

How to Include Your Interests and Talents for Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah

Bar and bat mitzvah is a time to let your talents shine. ALL of your talents and skills will likely be relevant to this phase of your life in some way. On the day of your ritual, the guests are coming to experience Shabbat, Torah, family and celebration are curious about who you are, and who you are becoming. They want to support your development.

Persona - Who Are You Becoming?

However you might describe yourself today, most likely you are changing quickly. Preferences for food, music, entertainment, and lots more change over the years.  Your environment, moving  to new neighborhoods, changing schools, changes in the family, new siblings, divorces, remarriages, illness,  – life’s traumas and treats change a person. On the journey some of us discover hidden talents, the need for new or improved skills, and all along the way physical changes are taking hold, sometimes in abundance.

Sample Bar Mitzvah Goals in Four Dimensions

Mark's Four Dimensional Bar Mitzvah Plan

This is a Bar Mitzvah promoting empowerment.  It represents my ability to take more responsibility for my own life. I have set the pace, plan, and style for this event in many ways:

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?