Mazal Tov on your child’s upcoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah! The following information will help you plan the ceremony in Israel with Rabbi Gary Tishkoff. Starred (**) sections explain the most frequently asked questions. Feel free to contact Rabbi Tishkoff for further clarifications.
**The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Service
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah service Rabbi Tishkoff uses is based on an abridged, traditional – yet egalitarian – service. Rabbi Tishkoff usually edits and customizes the entire service (and includes the relevant Torah verses for the date of your service) then sends you a PDF version for your final approval. Rabbi Tishkoff is delighted to bring up to 15 B&W copies of the service for use on the day of the event. You are welcome to have additional material inserted, such as traditional passages which may not appear in this abridged version, or poems and songs, or special blessings which friends and family members have composed especially for this occasion. If you require more than 15 copies, or you’d like to edit the service and add personal passages or artwork, then you can use the PDF or Word version of the service Rabbi Tishkoff emails to you and can customize it to your own tastes and at your own expense. Sample services can be viewed by opening the following links:
Brief History & Ramifications of the B’nei Mitzvah Ceremony
While in most Western societies young people are recognized as adults from their 18th birthday onward, in Judaism this traditionally occurs when a girl reaches the age of 12 years + one day, and a boy the age of 13 years + one day. This change in status occurs in Western societies and in Judaism automatically, whether one celebrates / commemorates this occasion or not. In Judaism, this new status indicates that the Bat or Bar Mitzvah person is now obligated to observe Mitzvot (Religious Commandments) as all other Jewish adults are obligated. With these obligations, come certain privileges, such as being able to lead services and read from the Torah. Originally, in the Middle Ages when Judaism began to develop ways of celebrating this transition, the Bar Mitzvah boy was only expected to read/recite the blessings before and after a section of Torah was read. As this tradition developed, the Bar Mitzvah boy was given more and more responsibility for leading the entire service according to his capabilities. Fortunately, we currently live in an egalitarian era so for nearly a hundred years now Bat Mitzvah girls are granted the exact same privileges as Bar Mitzvah boys with regard to Jewish ceremonial practices. Differences in practice for boys and for girls, vary, of course, from congregation to congregation.
**What the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Child is Expected To Do
Your child is welcome to lead as much of – or as little of – the service as s/he feels comfortable leading. It’s important that this be a positive experience for your child. While children are encouraged to study and prepare for this day, stress and anxiety need not be included.
- Minimally, this would include reading/singing the blessings before and after reading the Torah:
Blessing Before the Torah Reading
|The one offering the blessing begins: Barchu et Adonai ha-mevorach.The congregation responds: Baruch Adonai ha-mevorach le-olam va’ed.The one offering the blessing continues: Baruch Adonai ha-mevorach le-olam va’ed. Baruch Ata Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, asher bachar-banu mikol-ha’amim, v’natan-lanu et-Torato. Baruch Ata Adonai, notain ha-Torah.||
:המברך מתחיל .בָּרְכוּ אֶת יהוה הַמְבֹרָךְ
הקהל עונה .בָּרוּךְ יהוה הַמְבֹרָךְ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד
:המברך ממשיך .בָּרוּךְ יהוה הַמְבֹרָךְ לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד ,בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם ,אֲשֶׁר בָּחַר-בָּנוּ מִכָּל-הָעַמִּים .וְנָתַן-לָנוּ אֶת-תּוֹרָתוֹ .בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה, נוֹתֵן הַתּוֹרָה
[Praise the One to whom our praise is due! Praised be the One to whom our praise is due, now and forever! We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe: You have called us to Your service by giving us the Torah. We praise You, O God, Giver of the Torah.]
(The Reader reads a portion of the Torah)
Blessing After the Torah Reading
|Baruch Ata Adonai, elohaynu melech ha-olam, asher natan-lanu Torat-emet v’chayeh olam natah betochaynu. Baruch Ata Adonai, notain ha-Torah.||,בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר נָתַן-לָנוּ תּוֹרַת-אֱמֶת .וְחַיֵּי עוֹלָם נָטַע בְּתוֹכֵנוּ .בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה, נוֹתֵן הַתּוֹרָה|
[We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe: You have given us a Torah of truth, implanting within us eternal life. We praise You, O God, Giver of the Torah.]
In addition to this, many children learn how to read/chant all, or at least part, of the portion from the Torah in Hebrew. If your child doesn’t know Hebrew, s/he is welcome to read it out loud in English after Rabbi Tishkoff reads the Hebrew.
- The Bar/Bat Mitzvah child is also encouraged to write a Drasha, or explanation about:
1) the Torah portion, or 2) what becoming a Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Israel means, or 3) any other topic of interest
- If writing about the Torah portion, the following format is suggested:
a) 3-5 sentences summarizing what’s going on in the portion (and perhaps even what precedes and follows the specific verses being read?) b) 5-7 more sentences on what all this means such as: What’s interesting about this portion? What questions does it raise? Does the Bat/Bar Mitzvah agree / disagree with the text and why? c) 2-3 concluding sentences explaining what is learned from this text d) A few final sentences expressing thanks to those present (parents, siblings, other relatives and guests…) Maximally, of course, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah child is welcome to lead the entire service in Hebrew and/or English.
- Parents / Grandparents may wish to present the Bat/Bar Mitzvah with a Tallit and or Tefilin at the beginning of the service
- Note that throughout the service there are specific parts recommended for readers (Reader #1, Reader #2…)
- Parents and / or others can offer personal blessings to the Bat/Bar Mitzvah after the Torah has been read and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah has finished the D’rasha
- In addition to this, if there are other parts anyone would like to read in Hebrew or English, they’re welcome to do so
**Possible Locations in Israel
There are many locations throughout Israel where a meaningful Bar/Bat Mitzvah service can take place. You may want to consider the following:
Kotel (Western Wall)
The Kotel is situated in the heart of the Old City of Jerusalem. Services take place outdoors in an area called Robinson’s Arch / Davidson Center / Jerusalem Archaeological Park / Southern Wall Excavations. All these names refer to an area along the Kotel which is a few feet south of the main Western Wall Plaza and which has been set aside specifically for celebrations where mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, other relatives and friends can all be together. Rabbi Tishkoff can reserve space and a Torah scroll for the occasion. During winter months, it’s advisable to have an alternative indoor venue in case of inclement weather. During summer months it’s advisable to have the service as early as possible (even as early as 6:30 or 7:30 a.m.) to take advantage of the cool morning air. On Monday and Thursday mornings, which are the traditional times the Torah is read, the site often has many families celebrating B’nei Mitzvah ceremonies at the same time, so it can be full of life and cacophonous! Families who want a quieter setting should consider having the service on a different day of the week, e.g., on Friday mornings (this is also easier for Israeli guests since they typically don’t work on Fridays). Interestingly, and somewhat paradoxically, B’nei Mitzvah services are not held at this site on Shabbat or most Holiday mornings since the support staff which manages the site does not work at those times. Comfortable clothing and walking shoes are recommended. Entrance fees may apply depending on the time of day and day of the week.
Having the Bar/Bat Mitzvah service atop Masada can be very moving. Families can choose to walk up (the bottom gate opens at 5:30 a.m.) which takes about an hour and a half, or ride up on the cable car (which takes about 2 minutes – the first car departs at 8:00 a.m.) During the summer, this site is very hot, yet the dry heat of the morning in the shade is not uncomfortable. Comfortable clothing and walking shoes are recommended. Most families meet Rabbi Tishkoff at the entrance to the cable cars around 8:00 a.m. and ride up together. Once on top, there’s a 5-10 minute walk to where the service will take place in a shady room near the synagogue; this room has a breath-taking view of the Dead Sea and area of Ein Gedi to the north. Rabbi Tishkoff can reserve space and a Torah scroll for the occasion. Entrance fees apply. For more information click Masada National Park
Ramat HaNadiv (Rothschild Gardens)
There are two possibilities for the Ramat HaNadiv (Rothschild Gardens) site: 1) In the Middle of Nature – From the parking lot near the Mataim restaurant, one can walk to an outdoor shady spot which is among trees and has a bit of a view of the ocean. The walk itself is about 15 minutes along a dirt road. No entrance fees. Comfortable clothing and walking shoes are recommended. 2) In a Lecture Hall/Auditorium – To use the indoor air-conditioned auditorium (seats 60-70) which is adjacent to the restaurant. It’s a very cozy, intimate and modern auditorium; parking, outdoor playground and clean bathrooms are nearby. Usage fees apply. In either case, you can arrange for a vegetarian, kosher meal at the Mataim restaurant. For more information:
Rabbi Tishkoff can provide a Torah scroll.
Archaeological sites such as: Beit Shearim, Tzippori or Ceasaria; along the beach such as at Kibbutz Nachsholim; hotel synagogues or conference rooms; private homes of Israeli friends/relatives, are all possible venues for a meaningful Bar/Bat Mitzvah service. The family is responsible to make arrangements at any of these alternative sites in consultation with Rabbi Tishkoff who will happily provide a Torah, if necessary.
Reserving Space & A Torah
If you have already arranged for Rabbi Tishkoff to officiate at your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah service, then please provide him with the following information so he can reserve space & a Torah, as well as prepare a certificate in honor of this event:
Costs - B'nei Mitzvah
$750 (US dollars) when doing a service in Jerusalem or somewhere within about an hour from Rabbi Tishkoff’s residence. $1,000 (US dollars) when doing a service at Masada or at a location over an hour away from Rabbi Tishkoff’s residence. No down payment is necessary. Payment can be made on the day of the service.