Meaning of Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Remember what the celebration is really about.

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Comments (30)

(30) Keren Hannah, March 8, 2010 3:30 PM

Love you Lori!

Great! "Keep it simple, beautiful & meaningful"! May many hear and take it to heart.

(29) Anon, April 17, 2009 3:33 AM

Im not jewish but i was really inspired by this for a project im doing.I think it teaches a lesson to a lot of people to remember the true meaning of things, jew or on jew

(28) Anonymous, January 21, 2009 10:59 AM


even though i may not be a je i totaly agree with this!!! thanks

(27) s, August 13, 2008 4:17 AM


very true that we should remember the meaning of the bar mitzvah and that it's more than a party

(26) Gary, June 18, 2008 11:02 PM

cite your sources

Nice Lori. However, a little disingenuous. When mentioning someone's work one should be accurate and mention the author by name (b'shem om'ro). Moreover, his contribution to your d'var, at least in this context, is as deserving of mention as is the contribution by Rav Soloveitchik. It seemed to me as if you wanted to use the idea but were not anxious for people to look further into the book. The book was Putting God on the Guest List and it is written by Jeffrey Salkin. B'shalom, Rabbi Gary Robuck, Sydney Australia

(25) David, January 28, 2008 5:58 PM

Excellent Excellent Excellent

I teach young reform students how to read hebrew for their Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. I will take this wonderful advice to heart and share it with my students. Thank you,

(24) Ofra, January 28, 2008 4:17 PM

I think the name of the book you are referring to is "Putting G-d on the Guest List" by Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin.
There is also a companion book for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child.

(23) Rochelle, January 26, 2008 6:39 PM

As long as the Mitzvah day is honoured

Everyone who has a bar/Bat Mitzvah will remember that day as being one of the most significant days in their life. The smallest spark lights a fire. Honour the families who honour their children on this special day.

Thank you to all who open their doors to those who want to learn more.

(22) Anonymous, January 25, 2008 6:18 PM

I think Margarita sounds a little bit self-defensive. I think the point Lori is trying to make is that it is a relgious event - not a competition of who can have the biggest and best. For example, if a person has a tiny celebration, but does not make mention of or include G-D, Torah, Jewish ethics (such as Tzdakah), doing a Mitzvah project of some kind (doesn't have to be newsworthy) and doesn't give donations to the food bank - than that Bar/Bat Mitzvah would not be as meaningful as a full blown 3 day affair that includes - and makes a big deal - out of all the afore mentioned acts. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the "party" planning and forget the true significance of the Bar/Bat mitzvah - becoming an adult in the Jewish community. What values do you want to impart to your Jewish teenager as they pass over the bridge into adulthood?

(21) Graciela Gerber, January 25, 2008 10:48 AM

our children Bar/ Bat Mitzvas

there were no flowers or balloons, center pieces was food for the pantry.
My son's was the first one to have nothing fancy and our Rabbi said that's the Bar Mitzva I love, a child well preper and a family that understands what it means.
We started a trent

(20) Margarita, January 24, 2008 11:03 AM

you are wrong!

i cannnot believe how much you are not sure about us. there is no problem for us to make a big party and there are a lot of people who would not have come to shule if it wouldn't be for these kind of celebrations, but how quick it is to say that it's not important. every person finds Judaism their own way and if the celebration is what is remebered from the day and children enjoyed presents that they have recieved, well may be they will come back to the shule. i think that there is way bigger problem if children all remember shule been boring place. celebrations give us a chance to enjoy our life and people who question things and issues most of the time more prepared for the real world.
so try to tell me again why do you want to slam people who made a big party for their bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah child? we don't forget and please just because you think that celebration had nothing to do with G-d don't tell us that we forgot about main reason.

(19) Shmuel, January 24, 2008 9:08 AM

mazal tov!

Palatniks, mazal tov!
With love, Shmuel & Leah (PS. My sister has celebrated the bat mitzvahs of all three of her daughters at Aish Thornhill, and each is a powerful and meaningful experience.)

(18) Nechama, January 24, 2008 6:46 AM

So true and inspiring as usual!
Lori, do you have any comments about the lavish glatt kosher Pesach resorts? My cousin went to one last year. There was food everywhere (except in the elevator) and people changed their clothes three times a day or more (yom tov clothes).
Isn't there something to be said about gluttony here?
Thanks again for the wonderful talks.

(17) Barry, January 23, 2008 2:37 PM


The true meaning of Bar/Bat Mitzvah has been lost among the great majority of us. I find this rather tragic.

(16) Nehamashira, January 23, 2008 2:17 PM

Mitzvah, not Bar/Bas is the reason for the simcha.

I agree whole heartedly with you. It is not that we should not celebrate. It is often that in the celebrating, we lose the reason for it. It is time to include G-d on all of our invitation lists.

(15) Paul Kugelman, January 23, 2008 9:28 AM

Well Put!!!

If our focus is not on G-d at this time, what message are we sending to our children, which is the message that will be passed on theirs and so on...

(14) Ora Yellin, January 23, 2008 5:28 AM


You are so wonderful ! your words are so meanningful ! I totally agree with everything you say- and HALEVAI, more parents could get it- and find ways to approach their daughters,to really feel the significance of this important PASSAGE... YISHAR KOACH,Ora yellin

(13) marc, January 22, 2008 11:32 PM

thank you

thanks for spreading more wisdom that is so needed today for all types of jews! on every level this is very true

(12) Sara, January 22, 2008 11:02 PM

To Zissi:

"In Reform and Conservative Judaism, the bar/bas mitzvah is the biggest travesty. All it is is a big party and no idea what it's all about."

Having had a Reform Bat Mitvah and having attended multiple other Reform and Conservative B'nai Mitzvot, I can attest to the falseness of that generalization. Yes, some of the parties got out of hand, but in my area that was the exception to the rule. Most of the B'nai Mitzvot emphasized the service as the important part, and had a calm and respectful celebratory meal afterwards...and had a big birthday party for the kids the next day (or that evening, if the Bar Mitzvah took place at the morning service).

My own Bat Mitzvah may not have been Orthodox, but it was certainly tasteful. Instead of a party, I had a celebratory bagel and lox luncheon for everyone, with handmade centerpieces and a klezmer band. The Bat Mitzvah I had was about coming of age as a responsible Jewish adult...if that's not "what it's all about," then I don't know what is!

(11) Roberta, January 22, 2008 12:27 PM

Great video, as usual.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I visited my mother today, who is in a nursing home. She told me that she wanted to give me a present. I said "No Mom, I should give you a gift for giving me life." How timely your video. I just loved it. Thank you, for the nice birthday present. I enjoy them all.

(10) steve, January 22, 2008 9:52 AM

keeping up with the steins

The movie shows what a Bar Mitzvah should be... Family and being a Jew... I have been to parties were both were lacking.....

(9) Keren, January 21, 2008 11:40 PM

What a powerful message to keep in mind! Mazel tov.

Point well made! I recently attended a cousin's bat mitzva in a big fancy hall,and the feeling I left with was, what a chaval, what a shame that this is the way she began her journey into mitzvot. Thank you for stressing this point and making it very clear that this is an ocassion not to show how much we can spend but how much we can gain spiritually. Mazel tov! More people should try and reflect on their neshamot, their inner garb, NOT their dress (outer garb).

(8) Nancy, January 21, 2008 10:29 PM

Response to Zissi

I take offense at your generalizing about "Reform and Conservative Judaism" as I have belonged to both & have seen such a wide variety of celebrations. Yes, there are some that are completely devoid of spirituality but so many that are not. Please, we are but a small community of the world & supposed to hold to the highest standard morality, compassion & justice. Do not feed the fire of division within or at least keep your prejudice to yourself. It is not only the Orthodox who read these blogs.

(7) Nancy, January 21, 2008 10:00 PM

Putting the Mitzvah Back

For my first son's Bar Mitzvah, his party theme was "Mitzvot." The table centerpieces each had a different mitzvah quoted with corresponding donatable items beautifully arranged in a variety of containers. For example, for "visiting the sick" we had children's books destined for a local hospital which we later delivered personally to the children's unit. Guests were asked to bring something to contribute to the animal shelter he was volunteering at. My second son's theme centered around the recent Hurricane Katrina catastrophe (his choice). Centerpieces held children's school items, art supplies, etc. Guests helped by contributing more. Gift cards were used to buy specific things like socks & belts which the recipient school told us they sorely needed. Most importantly, my sons were involved in each stage of the planning.

(6) Yael, January 21, 2008 9:31 PM

The Right Focus

Your message is so important. I was fortunate to be raised and brought up in a religious home, where my parents instilled in my siblings and me the values and perspective you speak about. When it came to our bat mitzvahs, my sisters and I each and our own very meaningful and dignified way of celebrating this important milestone and stepping stone in our lives. I had a family backyard barbecue but with divrei Torah given by myself and some other relatives as well. Another sister had a Sat. night melave malka with the women and her friends from our community- a ladies night out but in our home and again with meaningful divrei Torah and inspiration shared. However, I was so saddened to learn several years later as a Sunday-school teacher in a non-religious setting, where my students where of bar and bat-mitzvah age children (6th and 7th grade) that instead of this important turning point in their lives, where they wake up after their birthday and they are now privileged with the responsiblity of keeping the Torah and doing the mitzvos of Hashem and getting credit for it(!)(whether or not they have a celebration to mark it or not), the bar/t mitzvha is all too often viewed as just one big party to be planned and agonized over (at least a year in advance,of course) but more importantly and ironically it was their ticket out of their already minimal Torah studies. The rule in this school was that they have to come to classes in order to be allowed to have a bar or bat mitzvah and once they got through with their birthday, they only had to come back to class if they wanted to. Instead of being the start of renewed and meaningful commitment to Torah observance, it was theirr graduation or ticket out of any more observance. A side issue- was the kids also would talk about having a theme, which I also found amusing,yet sad because it again misses the point of the specialness of the day- If they need a theme, let it be from their parsha or about a mitzvah they can do, like challah baking or tefillin, etc. Pick a color theme or food style and make your party beautiful and enjoyable but why get Spongebob, sports,spaceships or My little Pony invovled? Thank you Lori for always putting things in the right perspective. Mazal Tov and lots of nachas from all your children. :)

(5) Yehoshua Cirt, January 21, 2008 2:44 PM

Bar Mitzvahs? I had two of 'em!

I had two bar mitzvahs. That's because Temple Beth Emet- the conservative joint- closed for the summer. So my Dad took me by car to the orthodox shul in Los Angeles, where I made an alyiah to the Torah. The old men there gave be a vinyl table cloth as a gift. It was all very special for me.
In December, I was up again to perform along with my co-bar-mitzvah partner at Temple Beth Emet. And then that night there was the disco- reception with the pineapple Torah-shaped cake. And my Mom knew I didn't like pineapple! Anyway, when I moved to Israel and my grandfather z"l here asked me what my haftorah was- it did not make any sense to him. Why should it? The Torah portion I cited was from the winter and I should have been bar-mitzvahed in the summer.
All I can add is that I wouldn't want to show my kids the mini-skirted photo album I have. That "bar-mitzvah" would have been my demise, if not for the old me with the vinyl table-cloth in the summer.

(4) Chana Zelasko, January 21, 2008 12:15 PM

Mazel Tov

Mazel tov on your daughter's Bas Mitzvah. May you see much Yiddishe Naches from all of your children.

(3) Rosen, January 20, 2008 10:35 PM

ceremonies are more important than parties

It's important to always remember what you are celebrating for than the parties that come thereafter. The ceremony is very important and structured, whereas the party is a by-product of the event, where not everyone is up for so much socializing, dancing, and noise. G-d is more concerned about the mitzvot we perform selflessly than how lavish our parties are.

(2) Zissi, January 20, 2008 7:32 PM

Thank you

Thank you for reminding us that bar/bas mitzvah is not a big party. It is the beginning of adulthood in Jewish law and being responsible. It's only 12 years to my son's bar mitzvah (he's only 13 months old), but thank you for reminding me how not to make his party. In Reform and Conservative Judaism, the bar/bas mitzvah is the biggest travesty. All it is is a big party and no idea what it's all about.

(1) Sharona, January 20, 2008 2:23 PM


so true, we have forgotton what it means to become bar/bat mitzvah. We must realize again that it's not about the party as much as it is about being mature enough to keep the mitzvos now. That's what we are celebrating; getting our oppertunity to connect to Hashem through the torah and mitzvos He gave us


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