Bar and Bat Mitzvah at NVHC

At NVHC, the Bar or Bat Mitzvah usually helps to lead part of Shabbat services on Friday evening and Saturday morning, which includes chanting a section of the weekly Torah and Haftarah (Prophetic text) portions with appropriate blessings, talking about their mitzvah work, and presenting a prepared, personal interpretation of the weekly Torah portion (D’var Torah). Family members and other congregants are also invited to participate in these services. We believe that the entire Bar and Bat Mitzvah experience – including preparation, services, celebration, and commitments continuing beyond B’nai Mitzvah [plural] in Jewish life – are powerful and spiritually enriching for the family.

What is a mitzvah?

  • A mitzvah is a commandment, or obligation. There are 613 specific mitzvot in the Torah (plural of mitzvah), traditionally acknowledged to have been given by God or decreed by our Sages.
  • Doing mitzvot connect us to God, bringing God’s presence into our lives.
  • Doing mitzvot is part of our history. Through our actions, we become connected to our people who stood at Sinai to witness God’s eternal covenant with every generation.
  • Doing mitzvot also connects us to our tradition, which at more than 5,000 years old, has contributed to some of our civilization’s greatest values.

Why should I do mitzvot as I become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah?

  • Mitzvot lie at the heart of Judaism. While we now call you a Jewish adult, it is actually up to you to become one. It is your time to search, study and accept Jewish responsibilities.
  • Mitzvot teach us how to sanctify life – to take responsibility as adults, to make the right decisions, reaching out to others in need, continuing our Jewish learning, imbuing our lives with values and ultimately connecting with God.
  • While many mitzvot may seem like ‘good deeds’, being helpful and important activities in our society, it is a Jewish responsibility to take them on and frame them in a way that elevates their purpose to something holy, toward making the world complete and whole.
  • The Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam, of repairing the world, guides us to live out our Jewish values. You can change the world, one deed at a time.

Mitzvah Work

At NVHC, we are partners with your family in instilling true pride and depth in one’s Jewish identity, for that takes place both in the synagogue and at home. Becoming Bar/Bat Mitzvah is much more meaningful if you are doing mitzvot (commandments) with your child. We heartily encourage your family participation in the community – in social action work, family learning opportunities, congregational worship, moments of blessings, observance of holidays, travel to Israel and connecting Jewish community here and abroad.  

In order to provide you some framework and support, click here to view a guide which includes a framework, resources, and ideas about doing mitzvot.

Doing these things with your children and demonstrating your practice as an adult Jew creates the strongest foundation a Jewish child can have.  

B’nai Mitzvah Resources

Torah Corps – Student Preparation

Torah Corps is NVHC’s unique learning experience for Bar/Bat Mitzvah preparation! A program of study in place of individual tutoring sessions, it provides an extensive learning experience to prepare students for Bar and Bat Mitzvah as well as creating learning opportunities to plant firm roots for their Jewish life. Through a peer-based chevrutastyle learning environment for the year prior to becoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah, students work in small, assigned groups learning and practicing all things relevant to becoming Bar or Bat Mitzvah. These groups are directed and mentored by Cantor Caro along with Rabbi Wainer, Rabbi Holzman, and Sam Blum (our Youth Engagement Coordinator), as well as being staffed by trained teen madrichim.

Within these one-hour weekly sessions, students will work in several ways: individually with one of the instructors, in pairs with each other, or on their own with supervision to practice their blessings, their Torah and Haftarah portions. This arrangement creates multiple modes of learning situations for the students, including teaching and learning from each other which is important at this age. We engage the students in conversations about prayers, discuss and practice the choreography of a Shabbat service, gain additional Jewish life skills and opportunities including learning cantillation, text study, discussion and interpretation, all of which occur in a shared communal experience. We strongly encourage them to be present at each other’s B’nai Mitzvah, to celebrate together their accomplishments and connections to our tradition, our people and our community.

Click here for a more detailed explanation of our program: Orientation to Torah Corps.

Parent Preparation for Bar & Bat Mitzvah

This class is offered periodically for parents of students who will become B’nai Mitzvah in the months (and even years). In five sessions, the class discusses the meaning of this life cycle event and the mitzvah of celebrating Shabbat, provides information about your responsibilities and the sequence of your child’s preparation, and explains the structure of the worship service and the Reform siddur. The class blends structured teaching, practical advice, and shared experiences. The goal is to make the B’nai Mitzvah a deeply meaningful experience for the whole family and to perpetuate the spirit of Jewish community and tradition.

Past experience has shown that the sessions helped parents to feel better prepared, to have an opportunity to talk with other pre-B’nai Mitzvah parents and have exposed them to the traditions and liturgy involved in this life cycle event.

We offer this class each Fall and Spring. The meeting dates for Fall 2019 are: Sundays, September 22, October 6, 20, 27, November 10, 12:00-1:00 pm.