Bar Mitzvah, Bat Mitzvah: What Could It Mean to a Jewish Believer?
In the Jewish community, young boys learn to read Hebrew so that at the age of 13 they will be able to become a bar mitzvah (son of the commandment). The bar mitzvah is a liturgical rite of passage when Jewish boys publicly read for the first time from the Hebrew scrolls in the synagogue and recite the accompanying prayers. After this, a young man is considered responsible to take on all the obligations and regulations governing Jewish religious life. In the Orthodox Jewish community girls do not do this because they have very little standing with regard to the Law of Moses. But in the Conservative and Reform traditions girls may undergo a similar ceremony called a bat mitzvah (daughter of the commandment).
Years have passed since I myself stood before my family and friends and took on the responsibilities of Jewish adulthood. Since then I have found my Messiah and have become a son of the New Covenant. Now my daughter, has come of age. She, too, is a believer in Yeshua as her Messiah and Savior, and not long ago she made her public identification with Him in a ceremony of believer’s baptism.
Along with sound teaching about salvation in Yeshua, she has been taught to value her Jewish heritage. She wanted to have a bat mitzvah, and when she approached me about this I struggled with a dilemma. I was Jewish by birth and by identification, but I was not of the Conservative or Reform tradition. Furthermore, my daughter would not be taking on the ritual obligations of an Orthodox Jew, because she was a Jewish believer in Yeshua.
My daugher’s bat mitzvah would not be like the confirmation ceremony for young people conducted in some of the liturgical churches. That ceremony, like the bar/bat mitzvah, is the time in the lives of those young adults when they confirm their commitment to their faith. She, however, had already done that at her baptism. What, then, was this bat mitzvah supposed to mean to her and to those who attended?
As I planned and put together this service for my daughter, it became clear. The unifying theme of that special event would be that she had made a mature decision to identify herself with her Jewish ancestors. That service would mark her adult resolve to enter the stream of the Jewish people—a stream that has flowed since God called our father Abraham thousands of years ago—a stream each participant must decide to enter.
My daughter’s bat mitzvah took place early in June as planned, and it was a special time of celebration and witness. By this ceremony she declared to her unbelieving Jewish friends and family that by faith in the Messiah of Israel she belonged to Him; and she declared to her believing friends and family that by birth and by choice she was a part of God’s ancient people Israel.