Becoming a B’nai Mitzvah


Jack Zwirn

A giant stockpile of things needed to plan my sister’s Bat Mitzvah

Jack Zwirn, Opinions & Broadcast Editor

Growing up in a Jewish home, I got to learn what it means to be Jewish. You celebrate holidays with your family and eat lots of food. However, being Jewish is more about being a good person in your community, and during the process of becoming a B’nai Mitzvah, you expand upon what you have learned and figure out how to be that “good person”.

When I was 13 years old, I went through that process of becoming a Bar Mitzvah, a Jewish adult. Now my sister is going through that same process, becoming a Bat Mitzvah. Going through the process is completely different from watching someone else go through that same process.

B’nai Mitzvahs are a coming-of-age ceremony for Jewish teens which occurs for boys when they turn 13 (Bar Mitzvah) and girls at 12 1/2 (Bat Mitzvah). The process includes learning multiple Torah portions, necessary prayers, writing a D’var Torah (an explanation of your Torah portion and connecting it to your own life), and a Haftarah portion (a reading from the Book of Prophets), and is a lot of work.

While most B’nai Mitzvah teens already know most of the necessary prayers, the rest of it is all new material to learn. The most important new material is your Torah portion(s) and learning to chant them. Chanting from the Torah is very difficult, as there are no vowels written.

When I was the one having to learn everything, it was difficult to find the drive to practice outside of tutoring sessions where I practiced my portions and the prayers necessary for the service. It’s not easy to chant Torah, let alone just read it with or without the vowels. Writing my D’var Torah was also difficult, since my portion was about random rituals that are rarely practiced anymore, if ever.

Now that I am watching my sister go through the same process, I can see the amount of stress that I felt. She is anxious for the day of the celebration to relieve herself of the overwhelming pressure that comes with preparing for a B’nai Mitzvah.

I am actually feeling some of that pressure myself since I will be chanting a portion from the Torah at her service. However, I know that as a spectator, I will not be feeling the same pressure as my sister.

With our parents there making sure everything goes perfect, the day is bound to be stress-heavy. To prepare for the festivities, my parents organized everything from the location of the party to the food to sending out invitations to making sure all of the decorations were finished on time.

On the day of the service, you are surrounded by friends and family, watching them chant Torah and lead the congregation in the Saturday morning service. By the time you finish, you will be able to breathe a huge sigh of relief, and celebrate.

Many B’nai Mitzvah services are followed by a party later that day. Many of the parties are given a theme that the party is based on. For me, it was baseball. For one of my friends, it was PIXAR movies. For another, Broadway musicals. I had silhouettes of baseball positions like a pitching windup or a batting stance as centerpieces, pennants for each MLB team hanging from the ceiling, and more to add to the baseball theme.

My sister has chosen candy to be her theme. She has always been a sweet-tooth. She has a candy bar decoration, picture frames surrounded by candy wrappers, and more.

At the party, it gets wild. With an MC and DJ leading the way, we dance, we play games such as Coke & Pepsi, and take photos at the photo booth. It is a time that you never forget with the people closest to you.

At the end of the party, you go home tired from the stressful, but fun day. You feel sort of relieved that it’s over, but wish the party didn’t have to end. Hopefully this experience carries on to my sister, who will have her Bat Mitzvah in just a few days.

B’nai Mitzvahs are a special time for Jewish families. They provide a time to celebrate a teen coming of age in Judaism, while symbolizing the start of your Jewish adult life. Mazel Tov!