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Featuring the 13 Mitzvoth Program Introduction Have you ever been invited to a Bar or Bat mitzvah? If so, you may have been mislead. You were not invited to celebratean event called a bar or Bat mitzvah, instead, you were invited to celebrate the transition of a young man or woman or Bar or Bat mitzvah into adulthood. There are many different elements that play in a role in the transitional process. Some simply have the Torah reading ceremony while others have a large lavish party. Nonetheless, the transition into adulthood in the Jewish congregation¶s eyes is a very important part of a Jewish youths¶ growing process within in the temple or synagogue. Synagogues and temples are making the process include the whole community in which a student lives in order to better educate and stimulate the student¶s spiritual side. For example, Congregation Neveh Shalom in Southwest Portland has the 13 Mitzvoth Program. This is a program in which Rosana Berdichevsky aids young teens in service projects in order to connect with their local community and connect with themselves in a spirituality though service aspect. It is important for a Jewish teen to study and go through the Bar or Bat mitzvah process because it is important to the congregation and is an important part of learning about Jewish spirituality and tradition as the student grows up, matures and starts to make his or her own decisions. Definition The term Bar mitzvah is a technical term in rabbinic literature for a young man who has ³reached the age of thirteen years and one day, thus denoting
Above: An Image of a student reading from the Talmud during his Bar Mitzvah ceremony. Note he is wearing the tallit and teffilin.
it refers to the person going through the transition of entering into adulthood as perceived by the Jewish congregation. Different groups of Jews have different practices for BarMitzvah. The origin of the Bar/BatMitzvah is traced to the rabbinic quotation from Mishnah Avor 5:21 stating. however. Originally.´ rather than using a term either for child or for adult. females are not allowed to participate fully in the service. When called to the Torah. the term Bar/Bat mitzvah is not a word referring to an event. It is time for them to make choices that will greatly influence the rest of their life. the Bar or BatMitzvah is referred to as a bachor or bachora. today. Digging deeper. ³at thirteen one takes on the responsibility of the mitvot´ (Goodman 149). In other words. Her BatMitzvah was celebrated in a congregation. In some denominations of Judaism. The first female to have a mitzvah recognized was the eldest daughter of the founder of reconstructionalism. Bar and BatMitzvah literally means ³son and daughter of the commandment´ (Goodman 149). the first officialBatMitzvah was recognized in 1922.2 the attainment of religious and legal maturity [according to the Jewish custom]´(Salkin 381). It requires learning and much planning and organization. Thanks to her. This principle was once applied to females and participation in mitzvoth. This signifies that the teen is in a period of transition. all of the practices include reading from the Talmud or haphtarah. only boys were to celebrate BarMitzvah. In fact. literally the ³one who makes choices. Among these choices are selections about his or her .Participation in religious schooling helps lay the foundation for this occasion (Goodman 150). Participating in mitzvoth is something that a young teen has to decide to participate in. and in turn learning to read and speak Hebrew. girls celebrating mitzvot is pretty common practice (Goodman 149). Instead.
parents traditionally recite a prayer stating that they are freed from the ³punishment´ of this child.3 spiritual direction and connection to the Jewish people. The Bar/BatMitzvah preparation also focuses on actions. the focus here is a connection to community and God (Goodman 149). Such an affirmation acknowledges the beginning of the young person¶s independence and his or her ability to make moral choices (Goodman 150). These actions stress the social responsibility and moral consciousness of becoming a Jewish adult and they help show the Jewish understanding that he spiritual life is nurtured through moral action (Goodman 150). puts on a prayer shawl and phylacteries (tallit and tefillin) and is called to read a selection of the Torah. At this age. something that each person has to figure out and decide for themselves. students are required to participate in tikkun olam or to engage in a ³mitzvah´ project (Goodman 150). engaging in community service projects or helping the needy. Symbolic of the change from dependence to independence. Projects can include donating money to charity. Significance Bat/BarMitzvah represents the commitment of the young person to the covenant between God and the Jewish people. Social Value . one is counted in the quorum of ten needed for communal worship. In some congregations. In affirming one¶s identity as a Jew and taking responsibility for one¶s relationship to God. The ceremony itself signifies changes in relationships between the parents and the child and the child and the Jewish community as a whole. The 13 mitzvoth as led by Rosana Berdichevsky is an example of how students can go about completing a ³mitzvah´ project.
³the social pressure on the Bar/BatMitzvah and the parents to match. thirteen is the beginning of a transition into adulthood rather than an indicator of one¶s full arrival into this stage. American Jewish folklore enshrines numerous stories about the vulgarization and opulence of Bar/BatMitzvah celebrations (Salkin 388). celebrations can be extravagant and inappropriate. if not surpass. In other words. Salkin¶s essay ³Transforming Bar/BatMitzvah: The Role of Family and Community´ states. the Above: An example of a lavish social celebration of Bar Mitzvah. seventeen or eighteen is the age at which one usually begins military service (Goodman 150). By contrast. but it was always a relatively humble celebration. Celebrations of the event of entering into the transition have greatly changed over time. congregational leaders and educators struggle with keeping the Bar/BatMitzvah celebration appropriate socially.4 To the Jewish community. ³The µOld World¶BarMitzvah was joyous. Parents. twenty is the biblical age to be counted in the census and to go to war (Numbers 1:2) and in modern Israel. religiously and economically. They work hard to make sure that the teen involved is happy with the arrangements made and that the plans also do not show any serious excess or waste (Goodman 151). In today¶s economy. . According to the Torah. even tasteful celebrations can be quite expensive. Goodman states.
Students are there to support each other. In contrast. This causes negative feelings towards peers and can also create major conflict between teens and their social groups. however. A program that helps take the focus off of the party as it helps the community as a whole along with the students. Congregation Neveh Shalom has a very unique program for Bar/BatMitzvahs. It is ironic that the Bar/BatMitzvah is the only Jewish observance that has grown in importance in modernity. 13 Mitzvoth Program In Southwest Portland. This is harmful to both the students and the process in general. the Bar/BatMitzvah ceremony has shrunk in terms of spirituality significance. An example of a synagogue focusing on spirituality and service can be found in Congregation Neveh Shalom in Southeast Portland. They are blessed to have Rosanne Berdichevsky and the 13 Mitzvoth Program. People are turning it from spiritual transition to routine. The gem is called the 13 Mitzvoth Program and is led by Rosana Berdichevsky. students try to ³top´ each other¶s celebrations. Sadly. It has even gotten to the point where some gentile children have asked their parents for Bar/BatMitzvah celebrations (Salkin 388).5 ceremony and celebration of others can be strong´ (151). In . catering and gifts. teaching service and spirituality. in certain situations. Some synagogues have addressed this issue by suggesting venues and shared parties where as others try their hardest to switch the focus from the party to the actual spiritual transition. it often becomes a competition to see who can throw a bigger party. Now it is the center of a multimillion-dollar industry of entertainment. The lavish party planning is one major aspect that gives the Bar/BatMitzvah transition planning process a social value. in some areas. in a way. In other words. Rosana was featured in an article in the Oregonian published in June 2008. the Bar/BatMitzvahs has become something you just do if you reach the age and are of Jewish faith.
Avodah (Ritual observances). In an online interview. I was able to get in contact with Berdichevsky and discuss her involvement with the program and how it runs. At Congregation Neveh Shalom the program used to exist but in a ³very minimal way´ (Knudsen). Each student works with the 13 Mitzvoth facilitator to coordinate individual and group projects that fuse together learning in the classroom and real world experience (Berdichevsky). Berdichevsky stated that she finds service opportunities around the Portland community and then she helps the kids by accompanying them. documenting the event with . I asked Berdichevsky about her specific role within the program. In other words. This is done by working with a facilitator (Berdichevsky) to coordinate projects that fuse together learning and service.the commandments and spiritual opportunities that create the foundation of our people. I came across its mission statement. and Gemilut Hassadim (Community work). the 13 Mitzvoth program helps youth experience Mitzvoth and grow as a person in order to better contribute to the Jewish community and the world.6 this article. responsibility. Berdichevsky moderates the process and helps the students record their mitzvahs along the way. and respect toward the world and local community in need. In researching the program. Since Berdichevsky took over the program nineteen years ago she has worked tirelessly to enliven the program (making it voluntary and still popular) and lead teens through the process (Knudsen). the 13 Mitzvoth students learn to foster sensitivity. It states: The 13 Mitzvoth Program empowers youth to develop and nurture a relationship with our traditions Mitzvoth. The program revolves around the Jewish value of helping others and the world. Through Torah (Study). Rosana speaks about her 13 Mitzvoth program and how it is different to the typical process that a teen would go through as part of their mitzvah process.
Above: Dan Berke¶s organized a charity baseball game for his project for his bar mitzva celebration at Temple Sha¶arey Shalom in Springfield. what impact it causes. the congregation ³completely supports all that the kids and their families need in order to go together through the process because it is a family event and a process that they need the community to be part of and to celebrate with´ (13 . how it directly affected them and how they felt about doing this activity. NJ. the most important thing ³The students learn [is the] many aspects of how to help those in need´ (13 Mitzvoth Program). how to visit the sick and the elderly´ (13 Mitzvoth Program Information). students learn³how to care for the environment. Since his Mitzvah in 2006 the game has become an annual tradition. In addition to performing service. According to Berdichevsky. When the students are going through the 13 Mitzvoth Program and the process of preparing to enter into the transition of BatMitzvah. The best part about the process of doing service is that students ³learn a basic life skill of being involved in the community that we live by following the commandments of the Torah at the same time´ (13 Mitzvoth Program Information). students are required to record each Mitzvah they participate in and write a paragraph in reflection about what they did. how to feed the hungry. Students that participate in the program learn many values and lessons in the process of performing service.7 pictures and by ³providing background information of what the Mitzvah is and where is found in the Torah as a source´ (13 Mitzvoth Program Information). For example.
Conclusion It is important for a Jewish teen to study and go through the Bar or Bat mitzvah process because it is important to the congregation and is an important part of learning about Jewish spirituality and tradition as the student grows up. cantor. matures and starts to make his or her own decisions. Congregation Neveh Shalom even has a Hebrew school program that the students need to attend to fulfill requirements. To top it all off. teachers. and how he or she will live her life in the image of God while valuing faith and staying loyal to the other Jews in his or her community. where the student becomes an adult in the congregation¶s eyes. Students go through the process to try to find a new level of spirituality and meaning for themselves through study of the torah and through other required aspects of the process. There are also religious standards and classes that need to be met and attended to. He or she is now able to start to make his or her own decisions. This group of people spends Friday afternoon until Sunday together through the Shabbat experience. the program includes a retreat that includes the rabbi. Rosana Berdichevsky¶s program helps students get out in the community and work with different service projects in order help others and then later reflect on good works done and how it makes the student feel. decisions about God. faith.8 Mitzvoth Program Information). Then. . it is at the ceremony. after completing all the learning and experiences required. parents and the students. This is a great experience for the students in that it is a more casual atmosphere (in comparison to typical time spent with the Rabbi and Cantor) and it is tailored to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah students.
Ed. Roberta L.´ Message to the author. Ed. 1 Nov. "Transforming Bar/Bat Mitzvah: The Role of Family and Community.9 Works Cited ³13 Mitzvoth Program Information. Salkin." Nurturing Child and Adolescent Spirituality: Perspectives from the World's Religious Traditions. E-mail. "Jewish Teens Find Value in 'Mitzvoth'" The Oregonian [Portland] 8 June 2008. Print. "Entering the World. Karen-Marie Yust. 143-56." Nurturing Child and Adolescent Spirituality: Perspectives from the World's Religious Traditions. Living . . 2010.How We Live sec. MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Rosana. Berdichevsky. 2006. Knudsen. Karen-Marie Yust. 1 Nov. Mission Statement. DOC. Entering Torah: Moving from the Natural to the Sacred in the Jewish Life Cycle. Lanham. Portland: Congregation Neveh Shalom. Print. 2010. Lanham.. Jenn D. Goodman. Print. 2006. Sunrise ed. MD: Rowman & Littlefield. 380-93. Jeffrey K.
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