What Kind of Gift Should I Buy For A Bar or Bat Mitzvah?? (I’ll Tell You!)

In my endless quest to educate the people, I am giving you a gift: Part Two (of two) in my gift-giving series. Yesterday I wrote about Eagle Scout gifts; today I am discussing Bar or Bat Mitzvah presents.

First, let me share a little information about what a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is. A girl becomes a Bat Mitzvah, which means “daughter of the commandment”, and a boy becomes a Bar MItzvah (“son of the commandment”). In the Jewish religion, youngsters become “adults within the community” at the age of twelve (girls) or thirteen (boys). Basically this means that they are responsible for observing the commandments, they are able to get up and lead a service, they can read from the Torah, and they are allowed to chant an aliyah (blessing before a Torah reading). It takes years of study to prepare for this, and getting there is a big deal. Typically, though religious education officially begins in the kindergarten year, youngsters from K-2 learn about Jewish holidays and stories from the Old Testament/our Torah. Once a child is in third grade (age 8-9), the religious school curriculum gets a little more detailed and expands into learning Hebrew and the prayers that are a part of our Shabbat (sabbath) services, in preparation for the Bar or Bat Mitzvah. In most synagogues, at this point the frequency of religious school expands from once each week to twice!

The big day is, well, BIG. It’s a proud day for not only the family, but also the entire community, to see a new youngster up at the front of the sanctuary with the rabbi and the cantor, leading the congregation in worship. I have to point out, though, that a Bar or Bat Mitzvah is a part of the bigger community worship service; though the family usually has a list of invitees, the service is still open to everyone because it’s held at the normal weekly time, and you might even experience a baby naming or a birthday and anniversary blessing during the same service. The emphasis is on community! A Bar or Bat Mitzvah service is different from a First Communion in that usually the Bar or Bat Mitzvah youngster is the only one leading services with the rabbi and cantor, where a First Communion usually involves a large group of kids. In larger temples where there are more kids of age than weekends in the year or in the case of families who have twins or children who are close in age, you might have a B’nai Mitzvah, which involves multiple youngsters. The party or reception that some families plan for after the service is NOT an official part of the day; the most important part is the service, because it’s the culmination of so many years of hard work and study.

Here’s the younger boy, when he became a Bar Mitzvah in 1998 2008! (Thanks for the correction, Mom!)

I could go on for days about all the details, but let me jump to the reason I started this post: the gift-giving part. A special accomplishment means that a special gift is in order. Here are some gift ideas for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah:

1. Cash: Probably the most popular option from the giver’s point of view as well as the receiver’s, a cash gift for a special occasion in the Jewish religion (Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Confirmation, wedding, new baby) is typically given in multiples of $18, because 18 is a mystical number in the religion. Instead of my trying to explain it, I’m going to ask you to click here to get the explanation.
2. Gift cards
3. Books
4. Religious items: Things like a Tzedakah box, a yad, or a mezuzah are popular gifts for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. That said, if you aren’t Jewish, you probably wouldn’t give a religious item. In my own experience, I have never given a friend’s child who is having his or her First Communion a Bible or a plaque with a religious quote or verse on it; that just seems strange to me and I always stick with something in the non-religious category, not because I have anything against other religions but it just seems odd to me to do that. But that might just be my own preference.
5. A frame
6. Jewelry
7. A savings bond, if people still actually buy those!

Most stores have Bar or Bat Mitzvah cards. If you live in an area that doesn’t have a large Jewish population, you may have a hard time finding them, so an alternative would be to get a “Congratulations on your accomplishment” card, or stick with a blank card, in which you can write a customized note.

Curious about the Bar Mitzvah service? Read about my son’s, here.

Thanks for reading; tomorrow’s post will be a gift in itself. Don’t ask questions; just come back and see!


©2010 Suburban Scrawl

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