The Big Weekend
Friday Evening Service
On the Friday evening prior to the Saturday morning service when your child becomes a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, your family is invited to join the Beth David community to greet Shabbat. Your family will be invited up to the bima at the conclusion of the service, when the B’nai Mitzvah candidate will lead the congregation in the Kiddush – Shabbat blessing over the wine – and the Motzi – the blessing over the challah (bread) - at the conclusion of the service. We encourage you to bring extended family and friends with you on Friday night as our congregation kvells (beams with pride!) over your son or daughter. A special treat is the Beth David tradition of petit fours with your child’s name on them at the dessert oneg after the service. Services normally start at 6:30 pm, but please see the Beth David calendar to check for special programming.
The two most important pieces of Jewish ritual clothing are a tallit (tallis), or prayer shawl, and a kippah (yarmulke), or skullcap. Reform Jews have long debated the importance of both items. Especially in prior generations, many Reform Jews considered them old-fashioned and thought they could be a distraction from worship, and did not typically wear them. Today, most Reform Jews have once again embraced wearing ritual clothing as a practice that can help us connect to prior generations, and set apart our time in the sanctuary from our daily routine. At Beth David today, B’nai Mitzvah candidates are encouraged to consider wearing a kippah and tallit on the day they ascend the bimah.
Wearing a tallit is a mitzvah, mentioned in the Torah, and because it is only worn by Jewish adults, it is typically worn for the first time on the morning of your bar/bat mitzvah. The fringes in the four corners of the tallit are tied in a very specific way that symbolizes doing mitzvot. While blue or black stripes are the most traditional, the fabric of the tallit can be decorated in any way you choose. Beth David’s gift shop, Gifted, has a variety of beautiful tallitot if you would like to browse our selection. Some families even decide to make their own tallitot! It can also be very special for a child to wear a tallit that belonged to a grandparent or another relative. Either way, the tallit that your son/daughter wears on their bar/bat mitzvah day can be used throughout his/her life, whenever they attend Shabbat morning or High Holy Day services at Beth David, and at other lifecycle moments. Maybe Rabbi Kalisch and Cantor Levy will even have the opportunity to wrap your son or daughter in the same tallit when they stand under the chuppah (wedding canopy) with their beloved one day!
Wearing a kippah comes from the ancient Jewish custom of men covering their heads out of respect for God’s presence, but today, many women also wear kippot, and any visitor to a synagogue can choose to wear one. Many b’nai mitzvah families order special kippot inscribed with your child’s name and the date of the bar/bat mitzvah.
Just before the service on Saturday morning, the immediate family gathers with the clergy in the bridal suite to privately prepare for this special life cycle event. We say a few blessings together and parents present the tallit to their child, as they put it on for the first time. If there is a special significance or a history to the particular tallit that you have selected, please have that story prepared to share.
Saturday Morning Service
The B’nai Mitzvah candidate will help lead the Saturday Morning Service with our Rabbi and Cantor. At Beth David, we take great pride in celebrating the talent of our students in their ability to truly lead services. We know that the prayers they have learned for this special day at Beth David will also enable them to feel comfortable in other synagogues throughout their lives – thus further connecting them with Jewish community. B’nai Mitzvah candidates will also chant from the Torah (ideally 7 aliyot, or sections, each 3-4 sentences) and read or chant from the Haftarah (book of prophets, 5-8 sentences). They will also offer a D’var Torah (speech) in which they explain the meaning of their Torah portion and its connection to their lives today.
While the main focus is on the B’nai Mitzvah candidates, we all know they wouldn’t get to where they are without the help of close family and friends. As such, there are many opportunities for others to participate as well – chanting blessings before/after Torah, reading English translations, as well as dressing & lifting the Torah. Non-Jewish family members and friends are welcome on the bimah. The service includes a symbolic passing down of the Torah from grandparents (and sometimes great-grandparents) to parents to child - a stirring, moving moment, indeed.
From time to time Beth David has other life-cycle ceremonies such as a baby-namings or an aufruf (blessing for a wedding couple) that are also incorporated into the Shabbat service. If a baby naming or aufruf is being scheduled the morning of your child’s bar/bat mitzvah, we will always discuss it with you in advance. These ceremonies are brief and do not add significant time to the services. These special moments often add to the joy of the day, as we witness Judaism and Torah beyond Bar/Bat Mitzvah. In either instance, you will have the same number of honors as every other family to extend to your family and we are only adding to the joy we hope to celebrate within our Beth David community.