Last week, I joined with a family (and their friends and family) to celebrate their son becoming a bar mitzvah. A question I got frequently was, “Where is the Torah-reading?”
When this family initially reached out to me in the summer of 2012, they indicated that they wanted to do something to celebrate their son becoming a bar mitzvah, but did not want to have it in a synagogue or do a Torah-reading service. So, we set about coming up with a type of event that would mark his becoming a bar mitzvah and having it to be an intimate celebration with friends and family.
After all, there is no specific celebration laid out to commemorate one’s being a bar mitzvah – that is, someone who is now part of those who are obligated in the performance of the commandments of the Torah. So, we had the father of the young man say the birkat shepatarani, we had the young man lay tefillin and wear a tallit – the first time he had done so in public. The bar mitzvah boy also read out a nice speech about the process and about where he stands with his Jewish identity. The parents also wanted to have close family members light candles at the celebration, since candles are a nice touch. And, throughout, I spoke, describing what was going on and why.
In the end, the bar mitzvah boy and his family ended up enjoying their time. And both they and their guests were glad to have the explanations throughout, as it provided a sense of what was going on and the meaning behind it.