Bat Mitzvah 101

What Is a Bat Mitzvah?

A Bat Mitzvah is a coming of age ceremony that occurs in Jewish tradition when a girl turns 12 years old. At that time, she is officially considered to be a “Bat Mitzvah.” A ceremony is held to recognize that the girl is now old enough to enjoy the same rights as an adult when it comes to participating in Jewish life and keeping the commandments. In return, she is now considered to be ethically and morally responsible for all of her actions and decisions.

A Bat Mitzvah additionally refers to the religious ceremony and party that coincides with a girl blossoming into her 12th year. The party that follows the ceremony also goes by this designation. Depending on which faucet of Judaism the family practices (Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox etc.), and the details surrounding the ceremony or whether there is to be a religious component at all, are up to each individual family.

History of the Bat Mitzvah Ceremony

During the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries; a variety of Jewish communities began celebrating the special time a girl became a Bat Mitzvah with a unique ceremony. This direction was a huge break from traditional Jewish custom that did not allow women to directly participating in religious ceremonies.

Origins of the Tradition

In 1922, the first concept of the bat mitzvah ceremony was performed by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan for his daughter Judith. She was allowed the privilege of reading from the Torah once she officially became a Bat Mitzvah. This ceremony launched the evolution and development of the modern Bat Mitzvah and helped it evolve into what it is today.

What To Expect While Attending a Bat Mitzvah

Bat Mitzvah Kippot

Wearing a traditional bat mitzvah kippah or head covering was initially reserved for males during the service. In more liberal synagogues, females participate. Kippahs are worn out of respect for God and as a reflection of how sacred the ceremony space is. They are a non-denominational way to portray respect.

Custom kippahs can be chosen in a variety of colors, textures and materials to highlight the wearer’s individual style. It is common for proud parents to have a customized kippot made for the child with their name and the date embroidered inside. However, in some synagogues, lace head coverings or hats are worn by women instead.

Bat Mitzvah Traditions

In traditional synagogues, men and women sit on opposite sides; therefore, be prepared not to sit beside your spouse during the ceremony. You will hear some blessings in Hebrew at the synagogue, followed by the haltorah, or reciting of that week’s Torah component by the Bat Mitzvah. The Dvar Torah is often delivered afterwards, reflecting on the first 12 years and what contributions the celebrated young lady may make to the world may include now that she is an adult.

Typically, this ceremony takes place on a day of rest known as the Jewish Sabbath, celebrated Friday night through Saturday night.

Party Time! Mazel-tov!

A bat mitzvah is a huge celebration in the eyes of the family. It is important to remember that this is a party for a 12 year old girl. Gifts and cash are traditional but not required. Exceptional entertainment will be one of the memorable celebration factors of the evening. Amusement may range from a theme such as creating a winter wonderland or medieval times to hiring impersonators and belly dancers. It is not uncommon for Broadway musicals to captivate the audience. Regardless of the theme, be prepared to dance!

Circle dancing with the Horah is festive and fun. Get ready to hold hands and move around in circles. This traditional dance additionally involves lifting the hosts and immediate family into the air on a chair, and raising them higher and closer to the spiritual plane. This symbolically represents that team effort is required if we are to accomplish anything,

Have fun, enjoy the food and entertainment and be sure to congratulate the family on this momentous milestone!

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A History Of Hanukkah

The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days and eight nights, and begins on the 25th day of the month of Kislev on the lunar-based Jewish calendar. On a secular calendar, the dates vary from year to year, and can begin in either November or December. Hanukkah is also referred to as the Festival of Lights, and the word Hanukkah itself means “dedication”. This holiday has become one of the most widely recognized of the Jewish traditions.

The Story Behind Hanukkah

The events that led to the celebration we now know as Hanukkah represent a very troubled time in Jewish history. The Land of Israel, also known as Judea, became controlled by the Seceulid king of Syria, Antiochus III, around 200 B.C. At this point, the Jews were still allowed to continue practicing their religion. This was not to remain true because in 167 B.C., the Jewish temple was overtaken by the Syrian-Greek emperor Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the son of Antiochus III, who forced the Jewish people to worship Greek gods and made practicing Judaism an offense for which death was the chosen punishment.

The Jewish People Rebel

This resulted in a Jewish resistance movement, where several Jewish people joined together to rebel against the Greeks and reclaim their lands. This rebellion was led by a Jewish priest named Mattathias and his five sons. With the death of Mattathias in 166 B.C., his son Judah took over leadership of the rebellion and employed tactics similar to that of guerilla warfare in order to drive the Syrians out of Jerusalem. Eventually, after a period of about two years, the Jewish people were successful in regaining control of their Temple in Jerusalem.

The Temple had been defiled by the sacrificing of pigs and the worship of foreign gods during its Syrian occupation. In order to purify their Temple, the Jews planned to perform the burning of ritual oil in the Temple for a period of eight days. It was then realized that only enough ritual oil was left to burn for one day; but something wonderful happened and the oil lasted the entire eight days. This event was recognized as a miracle by the Jewish sages, and they proclaimed that an eight day celebration should be held each year to commemorate what happened during the rededication of the Temple. Hanukkah is celebrated to remember the miracle of the ritual oil, which is why the celebration is eight days long.

Conclusion

Hanukkah has inspired many Jewish traditions, including the lighting of the menorah, playing the dreidel game, receiving gifts on each of the eight nights, and eating foods cooked in oil representing the miracle of the oil lasting a full eight days.

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