At twelve for a young lady and thirteen for a young man, Judaism charges us with the responsibilities to fulfill mitzvot
. At this age we are asked to live according to the Laws of the Torah, including ethical teachings such as gemilat hesed
(acts of loving kindness) and tsedakah
(charity), rituals such as Shabbat and kashrut
(dietary laws), and communal observances and responsibilities.
At Beth Sholom we see the bar/bat mitzvah experience as part of a continual commitment to the essentials which make up our Jewish heritage and tradition. We would like the experience of bar/bat mitzvah to be expressed within our families, as well as within the synagogue community. We hope that the entire family will support, encourage, and participate, together with the bar/bat mitzvah, in this significant stage of transition from childhood to adolescence and maturity.
Requirements for bar/bat mitzvah at Beth Sholom are expectations that can be achieved by every candidate. Our clergy will assist you to make your bar/bat mitzvah ceremony a pleasant and meaningful experience.
Setting the Date
All religious rites are observed according to the Jewish calendar, and so the actual bar/bat mitzvah date ("ABM") relates the Hebrew date when we reach the age of twelve or thirteen.
For a bar mitzvah, the ceremony is celebrated soon after his thirteenth Hebrew birthday. As of the ABM, a boy must start wearing tefillin during the weekday morning services and may be counted in a minyan. He should receive an aliyah on a weekday soon after the ABM.
For a bat mitzvah, the ceremony is celebrated during her twelfth year. As of the ABM, all mitzvot, such as kindling Shabbat candles together with her mother and fasting on Yom Kippur, are required.
- To confirm your son or daughter's actual bar/bat mitzvah date, please contact Ellen in the synagogue office at (647) 873-1236
- We encourage you to contact Ellen in the synagogue office at (647) 873-1236 to book your bar/bat mitzvah celebration at least two years in advance, and to make arrangements for your simhah as soon as your date is confirmed.
Participation in the Service
It is at the Shabbat morning services that our bar/bat mitzvah are presented to the congregation and community in recognition of their new adult status.
In addition to the chanting of the haftarah (a short selection from the Prophets), the bar/bat mitzvah may also read appropriate portions from the Torah. At Beth Sholom, girls and boys may read the maftir portion, and boys are also permitted to read additional parts from the Torah. All b'nai mitzvah may chant additional prayers such as Ashrei and Ein Keloheinu, as well as recite a D’var Torah from the bimah, and explain the meaning of the parashah, if he or she wishes.
It is sometimes necessary to double-book for bar/bat mitzvah celebrations. Each candidate will be required to have mastered the chanting of all of the blessings, Maftir and their half of the haftarah. The apportionment of the haftarah will be decided by Cantor Moses.
- Parents should contact Cantor Moses at (416) 783-6106 approximately 12 months prior the actual bar/bat mitzvah date to ensure that the child has been assigned the proper Torah and/or haftarah portions.
- Tutoring or enrollment in our Bar/Bat Mitzvah program can be discussed with Cantor Moses and should be arranged immediately after the portions are assigned.
- The family should arrange to meet with Rabbi Flanzraich at least one month prior to the simhah (celebration) to discuss the D’var Torah.
Depending on the number of events taking place on the Shabbat of your bar/bat mitzvah, your family may be allowed up to three additional honours, depending on other celebrations or yahrzeits being observed on a particular Shabbat. Aliyot are assigned to males only; females may read one of three special prayers recited during the service.
- Please advise Cantor Moses of your wishes, and we will make every possible effort to accommodate your family's requests. A representative from the synagogue will contact you to advise you of the honours that have been assigned to your family.
- On a weekday, only men wearing tefillin will be called to the bimah. If tefillin are required, the shul has a limited supply to loan for the occasion. If assistance is required, please arrive a few minutes early and we will be pleased to help you.
- On Shabbat morning, family members and friends whom you have honoured with an aliyah should be at the Synagogue no later than 9:15 AM. Unfortunately, if they have not arrived by this time and given their aliyah card to an usher, the honour will be given to someone else to avoid delays to the service.
Bar Mitzvah Aliyah & Tefillin
While most bar mitzvahs are observed on Shabbat, it is customary for the boy to come to the shul on the first Monday or Thursday following his ABM to receive an aliyah to the Torah and to put his tefillin on for the first time.
The bar mitzvah should receive a new pair of tefillin, purchased and properly sized prior to the actual bar mitzvah date. Tefillin that belong to another member of the family is not acceptable; every adult male should have his own pair. An exception will be made if there is a tefillin from a deceased relative that the family would like the bar mitzvah to inherit. In this case, the tefillin must be checked and certified as kosher by a reputable Sofer (ritual scribe), to insure that the parchment scrolls in the tefillin have not deteriorated due to humidity, cold and heat. Only a certified Sofer can do this.
- Contact Ellen in the synagogue office at (647) 873-1236 as soon as possible to reserve a date for a tefillin aliyah.
- If you require a certified Sofer, please contact Rivy in the synagogue office at (647) 873-1235.
- It is customary for the bar mtzvah family to sponsor the congregational breakfast to mark this special occasion. Once your aliya date is confirmed, contact Ellen in the synagogue office at (647) 873-1236 to sponsor your breakfast.
Beth Sholom has minimum educational requirements prepared in conjunction with the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism, and reserves the right to withdraw the privilege of religious services if education, participation, and attendance requirements are not met. These include:
- Attendance at a Hebrew School recognized by the Toronto Board of Jewish Education at least two days per week, for five years, including the year of the bar/bat mitzvah.
- Attendance at Beth Sholom's bar mitzvah family program led by Rabbi Flanzraich and Cantor Moses.
- Attendance at Shabbat services at least once per month during the year prior to the bar mitzvah.
One of the most important mitzvot that we are called upon to fulfill as an adult is Talmud Torah. The quality and quantity of Jewish knowledge that we acquire up until our bar or bat mitzvah celebration is only a small portion of the vast wealth of Torah knowledge waiting for us. The most respected title that one can achieve as a Jew is that of Talmid Chacham: a wise and learned student of the Torah. Reaching the age of Jewish maturity does not absolve us of this significant mitzvah, but enhances its importance as a tool for our future development and understanding.
All bar/bat mitzvah candidates are encouraged to continue their Jewish education by attending available high schools and high school programs within the Jewish community, such as the Congregational High School Jewish Studies Program.
It is important to recognize that the bar/bat mitzvah has reached the age of Jewish responsibility, which implies the observance of many Jewish laws. Scheduling a party or other gathering which is non-kosher and/or requires participants to desecrate the Shabbat is not appropriate.
In accordance with the requirements of the Rabbinical Assembly - Ontario Region, the first meal following a bar/bat mitzvah ceremony must be held in an approved kosher facility (hotel, catering hall or synagogue) or in a private home. Non-members must hold their catered meal at Beth Sholom Synagogue. In all cases, we will require a sample invitation.
Your child should be expected to personally undertake the mitzvah of tzedakah, setting aside for charitable purposes a small portion of the gifts he/she receives. The mitzvah of helping those less fortunate is a very important lesson to learn during the bar/bat mitzvah experience.