Here’s SOME of the 4-1-1!!


Some of you have expressed interest not only in the fun details of how our weekend went, but also more information about a Bar Mitzvah in general, and I’m happy to oblige!

I was trying to figure out a way to not get too “Textbook-ish” about it, and it finally occurred to me to just post the wording from the programs we handed out at the temple for our guests! I mean, DUH!

So, this post will be informational in nature. I have taken out some names, but I’m sure you’ll have no trouble figuring it out. (By the way, if you are Jewish and need some wording for your own Bar/Bat Mitzvah program, take what you need! I “cut and pasted” from many others to make mine, so I encourage you to carry on that tradition!)

Here’s page one (The cover photo from the program is above):

Dear Family & Friends,

Shalom & welcome to THE Congregation OF THE WELLS FAMILY. We are honored & delighted that you could join us this morning to celebrate this important milestone in THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD’s life.

There are four significant events in the life of a Jew. Birth, B’nai Mitzvah, Marriage, & Death. Bar Mitzvah literally means “son of the commandment” and signifies that THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD is ready to assume his place in the Jewish community through exercising the responsibilities of our faith by carrying out mitzvot, the commandments of a Jewish life and a lifelong commitment to Jewish values. He will, from this point on, assume full responsibility for his own religious and ethical conduct. THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD has worked very hard to prepare for this day by attending religious school twice a week since third grade to learn Hebrew, Torah, Jewish history, and Jewish values & ethics. In addition, he has studied quite diligently over the past year to learn the Torah portion he will share with us today.

The synagogue, or temple, is the Jewish house of worship. Upon entering, men & boys (of any faith) and many women, are offered a head covering called a kippah. Wearing of a kippah in the synagogue is a Jewish tradition showing reverence to God. In addition, during the Saturday morning service, many Jews will wear a tallit, or prayer shawl. Its wearing fulfills the custom of attaching fringes to the four corners of garments as a reminder of the commandments given by God. Children & those who are not Jewish do not wear a tallit. Please participate to the extent you are comfortable.

The Torah consists of the five books of Moses and is the foundation of the Jewish faith. It contains the history of our people, principles of faith, laws, and the commandments. The Torah is kept in a special place called the Ark, which stands on the bimah, the raised platform in the front of the sanctuary. Above the Ark hangs the Eternal Light or Ner Tamid. This light, which hangs in all synagogues, symbolizes the perpetual faith of the Jewish people.

This morning THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD will assist the Rabbi and the Cantor in leading our morning service. He will read various prayers in Hebrew & English. THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD will also read from the Torah and offer a teaching from his studies. While following along with the service please note that the prayerbook or siddur opens & reads from right to left, as does the chumash, which is the larger book we will use during the Torah portion of the service. Within these books you will find text in Hebrew, English and a transliteration for most of the Hebrew text.

After services conclude we will join in the Foyer for an informal celebration called a Kiddush.

All too soon this day will be over but the meaning of today and the teachings in the days leading to it will be forever with our family. Thanks to the Cantor, the Rabbi, THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD’s tutor, and to all of our family and friends who traveled from near and far to share this special day with us.

Love, Jim & Melisa

Next section:

Jewish worship is liturgical, meaning that there are fixed prayers and a set order to the service. In addition to this fixed liturgy, all Jewish congregations around the world are reading the same Torah portion at the same time, on a fixed cycle. At the end of the Jewish calendar year, the entire Torah has been read and the process begins anew.

The Shabbat morning service consists of five basic sections:

1. Introductory Prayers – Psalms and other readings set the tone for the rest of the service and prepare us to receive the main part of the service.

2. The Shema & Benedictions – This part of the service begins with the Barechu or call to worship. The Shema expresses the core of Jewish belief, “Hear, O Israel, Adonai is our God, Adonai is One.” Many Jews cover their eyes while saying this prayer in order to block out the outside world and concentrate better.

3. The Amidah – The central portion of all Jewish worship services, literally translated, means “standing” as this is how this section is performed. We start by reading aloud together and finish silently. The silent portions are an opportunity for reflection and introspection. This section is concluded with a prayer for healing the sick. It is customary to say the name or names of persons in your thoughts and prayers aloud when prompted by the Rabbi. The prayer ending this section is called the Mi Shebeyrach.

4. The Torah Service – This part of the service focuses on the reading from the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD will be presented with his prayer shawl, or tallit. The Torah is then taken from the Ark and passed through the generations of THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD’s family. THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD will then carry the Torah around the sanctuary, reflecting the belief that the Torah should be brought to the people and shared with them. As the Torah is carried through the sanctuary, many people will touch the Torah with their prayerbook or their tallit, which they then kiss as a sign of respect for the word of God. The Torah is read, or “leyned”, on a three-year cycle at THE Congregation OF THE WELLS FAMILY, reading one-third of each weekly portion.

Ten people will chant or “leyn” from the Torah scroll during this mornings’ service and seven people (or couples, or small groups) will come up to witness part of the reading and to recite the appropriate blessings. The act of going up to witness the Torah reading is called an aliyah.

C. and V., FAMILY FRIENDS, will be called to raise and dress the Torah.

THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD will then chant the Haftarah, the prophetic reading, with the appropriate blessings. The family will follow the Torah as it is again carried around the sanctuary, before it is returned to the ark.

The D’var Torah, based on the Haftarah, will be delivered by THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD. This is THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD’s opportunity to teach us something about today’s Torah portion and how it compares to contemporary life. There will be a response, and presentations will be made.

5. Concluding Prayers-We continue with several prayers, some recited and some sung, in praise of God. The Mourners Kaddish is recited by Jews to extol God’s greatness in prayer, specifically after the death of a loved one or on the anniversary of the death.

The blessings over the wine and the challah are said in the sanctuary, and refreshments will be served in the lobby.

Some Helpful Terms we put in the program:

Ark – The chamber on the platform or bimah which houses the Torah scrolls.
Aliyah – Literally means “going up”. Stepping up onto the bimah to recite a prayer before and after the Torah section is “leyned”.

Bimah – The raised platform on which the pulpit and the ark stand.

Chumash – The larger maroon book containing the the Torah and Haftarah text in Hebrew, and English. This book along with the prayerbook are read from right to left.

Haftarah — The portion from the books of the prophets which is read on a particular Sabbath.

Kaddish — An Aramaic formula in praise of God. The final Kaddish of the service is dedicated to the memory of the deceased, but there is nothing about death in its contents. Throughout the service, the Kaddish will be used to separate sections of the liturgy.

Kippah – The head covering worn by men and some women of any faith upon entering the synagogue. It’s wearing is a tradition showing reverence to God.

Leyn – Chanting from the Torah with a specific melody and pace.

Maftir – (Conclusion) The eighth & final portion of the Torah, traditionally read by the B’nai Mitzvah.

Mitzvot – Commandments, the religious and moral obligations of Jewish life. Mitzvot are central to Jewish life. The obligation of a mitzvah may be carried out through charity, community service, and “Gemulit Chasidim” (Acts of Loving Kindness).

Ner Tamid
– The eternal light located above the Ark. This light burns continually to remind us of the perpetual faith of the Jewish people.

Siddur – The smaller maroon book containing the prayers.

Tallit – The fringed prayer shawl. The fringes (or tzitzit) symbolizes the 613 mitzvot (commandments) recorded in the Torah. The Tallit is worn by Jewish men & women over the age of 13 as a custom to symbolize the attachment of fringes to the four corners of garments as a reminder of the mitzvot.

The back page:

It is customary for a Bar Mitzvah student to take on a community project to show new or renewed interest in helping those in the world around him. Music is a very important element of THE THIRTEEN-YEAR-OLD’s life, and he wants to make it possible for other young people to have the same opportunities he has enjoyed. He has spent the last few months making and selling wallets and kippot out of duct tape to benefit the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, which purchases new musical instruments to restore music education programs that have been cut due to budget reductions in the past or to save programs at risk of elimination due to lack of instruments.

To find out more information about the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, click here.

You may notice that, instead of flowers, there are two baskets of musical instruments on the bimah. We are sending them to the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which donates new and refurbished musical instruments to underserved schools, community music programs and individual students nationwide, in an effort to give youngsters the many benefits of music education, help them to be better students and inspire creativity and expression through playing music.

To learn more about the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, please click here.


  • Mags

    Melisa, thank you for posting all of that! It was very informative and not too text-booky.

    One question-was the thirteen year old the only boy to have a ceremony that day? I know that when we (Catholic) had communion or confirmation it’s done in big “batches”..but this seems more personal. Is it?

  • Mags

    Although now that I’ve posted my comment, I’m thinking, “This is linked to his birthday jack@#$”

    So, I may have answered my own question

  • Melisa

    Thanks Mags! LOL: you are so funny and so NOT a jack@#$. Actually, your question is VERY common. The “rules” about when you can have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah (Bat is for girls) can vary slightly according to the temple or the “branch” of Judaism (i.e. Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Orthodox). At my place, the rule is that a boy or girl can become a Bar/Bat Mitzvah no earlier than one week before their 13th birthday. Though normally the day is “theirs alone” at our place, sometimes friends will share the day, or siblings will share the day. (Friends of ours had a daughter who waited to have hers until she was 15 so she could do it with her brother) In temples with larger 7th grade classes or birthdays clustered together, it might be a regular occurrence to have groups do it on the same day, but where I’m at that’s not typical.

    No question is a dumb one! 🙂

  • Kat

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing this with us. It just made me realize that I know very little about it.

    It was indeed very informative and heck I can now shine with all my new knowledge.

  • forgetfulone

    That was a very informative post, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I was a little confused by kaddish (concluding prayer?) and Kiddush (celebration?) But this was a great post.

  • Anonymous

    I just wanted to say how much I enjoyed this information. I am extremely interested in the Jewish culture. Thank you again. Note: written in terms that I was able to understand.

  • The Microblogologist

    I LOVED this post! As I said before, I am fascinated by the religion that my religion hijacked. Now I am left to wonder why they didn’t swipe some of the really cool traditions while they were at it. Thanks for a wonderful glimpse into your culture/religion!