When children reach the beginning of their teen years, Jewish tradition recognizes them as Bnei Mitzvah ~ adults in the eyes of the community for ritual and religious purposes. In North America, "Bar or Bat Mitzvah" has come to refer to the "event" (i.e. "my Bat Mitzvah was in June") which can be an elaborate affair. However, the essence of this ritual has much more to do with the process of study and maturation around the teen's relationship with Judaism and their community and the title of Bar or Bat Mitzvah (plural, B'nei) is designed to convey that status change, which we recognize with their participation in a worship service.
I enjoy working with t'weens and teens to prepare for the service they will co-lead with me. It is an opportunity for us to talk about life as well as all of the Jewish stuff that I geek out about, like the structure of a service, the meanings of the prayers (to them as well as in tradition), their sense of what is sacred and where/how/when/what God is in their lives. Of course, we also study Hebrew and prepare to read Torah; however, that is never my primary focus. I am interested most in how Judaism manifests in their lives as they become adult thinkers and feelers. My goals:
- to help them connect what matters to them with their Jewish heritage;
- to encourage them to own their birthright as people of Yisrael - God-wrestlers who engage with, examine, question, and study Judaism as a lifelong process;
- to be an example, for them, of a person who finds great joy, strength, connection, and comfort in Judaism, Jewish practice and Jewish community while still taking issue with things that are done in the name of it.
- to be a trusted confidante and advisor (in other words, a rabbi!) for them.