*Special thanks to Arianna’s Mom Lizzy as May’s guest author for this special blog.
The Bar & Bat Mitzvah is the moment in the Jewish life cycle that most deeply defines who Jews are as a people. The Bat & Bar Mitzvah ceremony celebrates the link in an unbroken chain of thousands of years of Jewish tradition. The words Bar & Bat Mitzvah literally mean “Son & Daughter of the Mitzvah.” In addition to meaning “commandment” the word Mitzvah also means “connection.”
When a child reaches to the age of Bat & Bar Mitzvah, she/he assumes a greater maturity in her/his connection to Torah, to her/his own Jewish identity, to the Jewish people as a whole.
According to the Torah, a Bar & Bat Mitzvah is a young man who has reached the age of 13 and a young woman who has reached the age of 12 (the beginning of her 13th year). It is taught that at the age of 13 young men and women are endowed with a greater capacity for both seeking to do good and seeking selfish pursuits. This age marks the young adult’s arrival at the crossroads of moral and spiritual decision making that is engaged in by mature adults.
As a community we celebrate the Bat & Bar Mitzvah in order to help our young adults become aware of and draw meaning from this significant transition in their lives.
But perhaps the greatest challenge is to make the day unforgettable not for the guests but for the real center of attention – the Bat Mitzvah girl or Bar Mitzvah boy. For many, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experience determines their attitude to Judaism, if the event is meaningful and inspiring, their Jewish identity will be reinforced and they will be proud of their heritage.
As for everything else, children look to their parents for guidance on how to view the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. They take their cues from us, and our attitude will define theirs. By the parents taking time to understand what a Bar/Bat Mitzvah really is, they can develop an approach that will highlight the uniqueness and power of their child’s special day.
When planning the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, remember that the really important stuff begins after the fanfare has died down. People will forget who the caterer was a week after the event, and the table decorations will mostly be destroyed by the time the main course is served. But the values you pass down to your children are eternal. That is a gift that they will cherish every day of their lives – the gift of spiritual maturity.
Planning my daughters special day was equally nerve racking as it was exciting. Every step we experienced together created a special bond between mother and daughter. Together we studied, chose catering halls, her theme and all the other small details that need to come together to make her day be special for her.
Getting ready for her Bat Mitzvah started off very early, but we were excited. She had gotten her hair done and had her first experience having makeup done professionally. At that moment I truly saw what a beautiful young woman she has become. It’s a feeling of pride and love that has no words to describe. I am so glad she enjoyed herself getting ready for her big day and didn’t fall asleep during this process, even though I did see her do a lot of yawning.
We arrived early at the synagogue to prepare ourselves for her service. The Rabbi was there to great us and even let us take some pictures with him and the Torah! Soon family and friends started to arrive and the reality started to sink in that in a few moments my child will have moved into religious adulthood.
Arianna had started her religious learning a little later then most due to our moving, which made things a little harder for her since she needed to play catch up. But with hard work and perseverance she overcame and was amazing. She had to learn how to read prayers in Hebrew, which we don’t speak, and lead an entire service in front of many people. Which is scary for most adults, but at 13 she took to the challenge and succeeded. We are all very proud of her.
(MuSen: I had the honor to capture Arianna’s Bat Mitzvah this May. It was photographed in both lifestyle and documentary styles. Documentary style refers to the style that photos are taken without photographer interactions; vs. Lifestyle refers to the style that photos are taken with the instruction of the photographer to create a perfect harmony for candid moment. I truly enjoyed this session and wish to promote both styles even more. )