Bar Mitzvah Gift
My nephew is having his bar mitzvah and I am thinking of a gift. In the old days, the gift of choice was a fountain pen, then a Walkman, and today an iPod. But I want to get him something special. What do you suggest?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Since this event celebrates the young person becoming obligated in the commandments, the most appropriate gift is, naturally, one that gives a deeper understanding of the Jewish heritage and enables one to better perform the mitzvot! (An iPod, s/he can get anytime.)
With that in mind, my favorite gift idea is a tzedakah (charity) box. Every Jew should have a tzedakah box in his home, so he can drop in change on a regular basis. The money can then be given to support a Jewish school or institution -- in your home town or in Israel (every Jews’ “home town”). There are beautiful tzedakah boxes made of wood and silver, and you can see a selection here.
For boys, a really beautiful gift is a pair of tefillin, the black leather boxes which contain parchments of Torah verses, worn on the bicep and the head. Owning a pair of Tefillin (and wearing them!) is an important part of Jewish identity. But since they are expensive (about $400), not every Bar Mitzvah boy has a pair. To make sure you get kosher Tefillin, see here.
If he already has Tefillin, consider a special waterproof Tefillin case that he can take on hikes, trips, etc.
The next obvious gift is a Jewish book. There are many hundreds of titles to choose from, so I’ve narrowed it down to the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Top 10. Just click on the title to order:
• Stone Chumash (published by ArtScroll), an excellent translation of the Five Books of Moses with running commentary on every page
• Book of our Heritage by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov (Feldheim), a beautiful overview of the Jewish holidays
• The Bar Mitzvah Treasury, an illustrated collection of customs and inspiring stories (by Rabbi Yonah Weinrib and Rabbi Yaakov Salomon; ArtScroll)
• The Thinking Teenagers Guide to Life by Rabbi Akiva Tatz (Targum), gripping essays on forging a path through life
• Sand and Stars by Yaffa Ganz (ArtScroll), a two-volume book about Jewish history, written especially for teenagers
• Shmooze by Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith, a fun book that provokes thoughtful discussions on essential Jewish issues
• The Long Road to Freedom, by Avner Gold, an exciting historical novel filled with intrigue and insight into Jewish life
• Bible for the Clueless But Curious by Rabbi Nachum Braverman (Leviathan), packed with wisdom on relationships, spirituality and more
• Candles in my Window by Beth Firestone, a delightful fiction book about a young girl discovering her Judaism
• Triumph – Aish.com’s popular book of inspiring true stories of challenge and spiritual growth
If all else fails, you can always give money. It is a nice idea to give $18 (or some multiple thereof), since the numerical value of 18 in Hebrew is "Chai," which means "Life."