Giving Meaningful Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Presents

The B-Mitzvah (R)evolution

"The Silver Ring"

Two weeks before my bat mitzvah, my mother took me over to her jewelry drawer. She lifted out a silver ring with a turquoise stone in it that had cracks filled with drizzled in gold. "This is my bat mitzvah present for you. This ring is full of special memories and it comes with a blessing." She slipped it onto my right hand ring finger. A perfect fit. "What kind of memories? What do you mean it comes with a blessing?"

"During World War Two, I worked as secretary to the Surgeon General. The only places I'd visited in life were New York City, where I grew up, and Washington, D.C., where I was working. For my vacation I decided to do something daring for those times, to travel with a girlfriend to the southwest, to New Mexico, Colorado and Arizona, to experience a totally different part and peoples of America. It was a glorious time. While I was there I bought this ring and wore it every day until I got married and replaced it with my wedding rings."

"The blessing of this ring is for you to have many wonderful travel experiences, to see and marvel at this beautiful world. All I ask is that each Shabbat, you go to synagogue and meet the local Jews, as well."

The ring became part of my life and the blessing proved very effective. It is the only present I can remember from my bat mitzvah, though surely there were many others. It's connected me to my mother, to the blessing [I've been privileged to travel the world], and to my bat mitzvah.

Part of what we can take from my mother's insightful way of giving a gift, is that It's not only what you give or ask for, it's how it is presented. To gift something significant to you and help it take on meaning for someone else involves some thoughtful planning.  
     1. Timing - when will be just the right time? The day of a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah can be pretty overwhelming. So, a special gift given some days or weeks before the ritual helps with building up to the big day, and carves out space for the special nature of the gift to be appreciated.
     2. History - the detailed history or intent of an item is easily forgotten in such a busy time.
After a from-the-heart telling of its history, provide a written out version to be kept in a safe place,
perhaps in the album with Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah photos.
     3. Wrapping - show how to care for the item. Perhaps provide a keepsake quality wooden box or other container that can stand the test of time.
     4. Blessing - what is the gift of words that you can find for this occasion? Alternatively, let's say
the gift is a kiddush cup - one from a relative that came down to you, or a new one intended to begin
a legacy - you can ask what blessing the recipient would like to receive and then include that in
your blessing. Everyone loves to be really well listened-to, including that with which someone wants to be blessed will feel very good to them.

Suppose something so momentous isn't available, are there other good choices?

Create or obtain a beautiful hand painted challah cover, candle sticks worthy of keeping, a menorah small enough to bring along when it comes time for college, a mezuzah for the student's room or a Jewishly symbolic necklace charm. Select Judaica this is elegant and likely to last the test of time.

No matter what you give, it is also a Jewish tradition to make a donation to an organization or cause in the name of the person you are honoring. By your example of doing this, the young person will learn to carry this legacy of adding to the power of a simcha by supporting social change, education or the arts. The Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah student may be fund raising for a particular cause and will greatly appreciate your contribution to such an effort.

Giving a treasured object rich in family history, or selecting an item that can be passed down through the generations from your generation onward, supporting the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah student's tzedakah project - any of these will mean so much.

May you be blessed to savor the experience of such meaningful giving!