Are We Getting It Right?
Ben W.: I’ve heard that for most guys who are bar mitzvah these days, after their bar mitzvah they forget about everything—Hebrew, shul and God. I’ve been a believer in the Messiah Jesus for as long as I can remember, since I was about four years old. Because of Jesus, I think this bar mitzvah stuff is serious. Bar mitzvah means ‘son of the commandment,’ and for me it’s a beginning of growing up into adult responsibility and adult commitment to Yeshua and to His commandment ‘to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and might, and to love your neighbor as yourself.'”
Rebekah W.: “You know that when you give to God, it should be out of love. Your heart tells you to give to God because you love Him. God also has a pattern that we have to follow if we want to please Him. We can’t do things any old way we want to. We must do it His way. While I was preparing for my bat mitzvah, I spent a lot of time talking with my parents about all the different kinds of offerings God wanted long ago from our people and what He wants from me now.
“As a bat mitzvah, I’m offering myself up as a living sacrifice to God. I have already accepted Yeshua as Messiah, but I’m saying in front of all of you that I want to honor Him and serve Him, not just tonight, but for the rest of my life. I am also saying that I am a part of the Jewish people and that is very important to me. I would ask you all to pray that God would help me to honor Yeshua with my life.”
Hani K.: “While studying for my bat mitzvah, I’ve had a lot of help from God, my parents and my best friend. God has helped me to understand what all this is about. My dad was my teacher for my bat mitzvah. He taught me all the blessings and melodies. He also helped me to understand what this whole event is all about: taking my place in the Jewish community, growing up, and recognizing it’s time for me to take responsibility for my own relationship with God.”
Saul W.: “I became a believer in Yeshua when I was six years old. Since my parents are Jewish, they raised me with the knowledge of our Jewish roots, and along with that I learned about the Messiah. My mom and dad continually encouraged me to read the Bible to know more about the Lord, but also have worked with me daily to prepare for this special day. My dad’s parents, my grandma and grandpa, are here today and they are also Jewish believers in Yeshua. My grandpa often tells stories of what it was like to be Jewish in Germany when he was a child, and how his family was persecuted because they were Jews. This has given me a deeper appreciation for my roots.”
Tali B.: “In ancient times, the children of Israel were told to make sacrifices to restore their relationship with God. But today the Temple is no longer standing, and so these animal sacrifices are no longer possible. The bright future and the bright hope that God has given me and others here today came in the form of His ultimate sacrifice, the Lamb of God—Yeshua the Messiah. I want you to know that I chose to be up here today, and I have chosen to identify as a Jew. I am proud of my heritage and I hope, in the future, to raise my family through Jewish ways and through celebrating the holidays.”
Celebrating Jewish life events in an appropriate way is important to those of us in the messianic community. We face the challenge of wedding an authentic faith with an authentic lifestyle. Are we passing along Jewish values that will last? More importantly, are we encouraging our young to follow in the way of the Lord? Are we getting it right?
A bar or bat mitzvah is a pinnacle event in the life of a Jewish child. How much more so should it be for the Jewish child who believes in Yeshua? It is an opportunity for the child, the family and the community to carry on the ancient faith and attest to God’s faithfulness and reality.
There are three good reasons to have a bar or bat mitzvah: One, as a confirmation of identity with the Jewish people. Two, as a symbol of taking on spiritual responsibility, maturity and service. And three, as a story of one’s personal faith in Yeshua to the unsaved Jewish friends and relatives who attend. Actually, there is a fourth good reason: Yeshua, though a year shy of the legal age when religious obligations and privileges rested on a person, came to the Temple to take His place among the learned worshipers (Luke 2:46). Perhaps no other life cycle event, short of marriage, requires such skillful planning and preparation. The bar and bat mitzvah lessons are a duty to fulfill, week in and week out, increasing in frequency as the great day approaches. The young man or woman needs the strength of Samson to bear up under the pressure involved in studying the Hebrew and chanting it with the proper intonation, writing the drash (message) and memorizing the Torah and Haftorah blessings. Preparing for the college SATs seems a breeze after tackling this assignment!
The family has its part to do as well. Even a simple bar/bat mitzvah entails finding the right venue, invitations, caterers, florists, table seatings, onegs, flight arrangements—even music/DJs and videographers.
So why go to so much trouble; why put your son or daughter through the ordeal? Why put yourself through it? Why not just have a party? Perhaps we can get some answers from the accompanying contributions by messianic children. These excerpts from the speeches they gave at their own “coming of age” events attest to the fact that perhaps we are “getting it right,” that perhaps the next generation is integrating into their lives the authenticity of belief in the Jewish Messiah.
Though there are no books written yet on the subject, there are a variety of articles, Jewish (non-messianic) books and ritual items mentioned here that you might find useful:
1) The Source for Everything Jewish:
Phone number: 1-800-426-2567
Personalized Haftorah lithographs; photo albums; tallit and kippot; Simcha Planner: CD-Rom for Windows; The Complete Bar/Bat Mitzvah Planner by Linda Seifer Sage
2) Messianic Jewish Resources Catalog:
Phone number: 1-800-410-7367
Messianic bar/bat mitzvah certificates; God’s Appointed Customs by Barney Kasdan (how to observe biblical lifecycle events); Festival/Holy Days Service Book (liturgy for special lifecycle celebrations; tallit and kippot)
3) Purple Pomegranate Messianic Resource Catalog:
Phone number: 1-800-366-5521
Israeli bookmarks (great as gifts for guests); tallit and kippot; messianic music for the celebration
4) Nancy Jardine, a Detroit-based messianic artist, makes bar and bat mitzvah gifts, incorporating the Torah reading and art into a gift similar to a ketubah in form, but commemorating a coming of age instead of a union of lives. Contact Ms. Jardine through “Havurah,” or Jews for Jesus.
Kesher magazine, available by writing to 6304 Beltline Road, Dallas, TX 75240—two articles: “It Takes More Than a Day: Planning a Successful Bar/Bat Mitzvah Reception,” by Francine Amster, and “The Bar/Bat Mitzvah: A Primer on How to Plan the ‘Perfect’ Reception,” by Deborah A. Lakin
Mishpochah Message: “The Messianic Bar Mitzvah,” by Stephen Katz; Spring ’96
Jews for Jesus newsletter: “Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah—What Could it Mean to a Jewish Believer,” by Jhan Moskowitz; issue 11:5753 (1993)
C. Books (non-messianic):
Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah, by Jeffry Sakin, Jewish Lights Publishers
A Spiritual Journey: the Bar and Bat Mitzvah Handbook, by Seymour Rossel (editor), Behrman House