Learn about the role of a Bar or Bat mitzvah in Jewish life
Think about what it means to read from the Torah and become part of the community
By the end of the lesson, the children will have learnt about the importance of Bar or Bat Mitzvah and thought about what it means to them
- Brainstorm: What is a Bar/Bat Mitzvah? – Children to think about what a Bar/Bat Mitzvah is and what it means to them. List on the whiteboard different thoughts and opinions.
- Experience of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah – Ask the children if they have ever attended a Bar or Bat-mitzvah ceremony of an older family member or a friend. What happens at a Bar/Bat-mitzvah? At what age do children have a Bar/Bat-mitzvah? Why do you think they have this ceremony?
- What does Bar/Bat-Mitzvah mean? – Literally, son or daughter of a mitzvah. Discuss what mitzvah means – commandment or good deed – and the similarities and differences. One Rabbi, Jeffrey Salkin, states that it must be understood as “old enough to do mitzvot”.
- How can we be a son/daughter of a commandment – make a list on the whiteboard and discuss as a class.
- Changing Liberal attitudes to Bar/Bat-mitzvah – Explain that at the time that Liberal Judaism was developing, Bar Mitzvah marked the point at which a boy was old enough to be counted for the minyan which was a requirement for a full service. Ask the class why the founders of Liberal Judaism rejected Bar Mitzvah: No need for a minyan to worship fully; equality of men and women; too young to understand so introduced Kabbalat Torah.
Although there is still no requirement to have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony, why do they think many Liberal Jews do celebrate it today?
- For younger children: How old do you have to be? As a group discuss what you are allowed to do at 7, 9,11, 13 and 14/15 years old? Ask questions such as when are you allowed to walk home by yourself, cook, go out with friends etc? Are there any mitzvoth they think are only for children or adults? Write answers on a whiteboard. What do they think might be different in a person’s life after their bar/bat mitzvah?
- Option 1: Bar/Bat Mitzvah Outline – Give each child an outlineof a person and tell them that they need to make this person look like a Bar/Bat-Mitzvah boy or girl ready to celebrate their big day. Encourage children to think about what their person might be wearing for the special day (smart clothes, tallit, kippah), what they would be holding (siddur) and what they would be doing (reading from the scroll). Children to draw thought bubbles with their feelings leading up to and celebrating their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Think about what it means to read from the Torah, become part of the community and to learn about the role of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Jewish life.
- Option 2: Create a Storyboardof a Bar/Bat Mitzvah – Children to create a storyboard about a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. They can either pretend it will be their ceremony, or someone else’s that they have already been to. Think about all of the pressures, importance, meaning and happy moments that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will bring.
- What comes next? – Make a list of the roles and responsibilities children feel they will need to take on following their Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Lead discussion to Kabbalat Torah and why it is important for them to continue their learning.