Monday, August 5, 2013

Messianic Bar Mitzvahs

Legal, Social, and Religious Aspects of the Bar Mitzvah

So why should a Messianic Jew or non-Jew want to have a bar mitzvah?

(1) to acquire certain legal rights and duties (e.g. being a man for the purposes of forming a minyan, serving the important legal role as a witness in a beit din, etc);

(2) to acquire certain religious rights and duties (e.g. being eligible to be called to read the Torah and give the drash which is a little sermon about the Torah portion);

(3) to acquire a new level of social recognition.  For males it's important to know what it means to be a man and to know that you have been accepted by the other men as a man.  Part of this process involves being able to ask questions about all the confusing biological things that happen to you around the age of thirteen.

Should There be a Bat Mitzvah Ceremony?

No.  A woman should not usurp authority over a man.  The whole point of the bar mitzvah ceremony is to recognize males as religious leaders.  So you only see the bat mitzvah ceremony in the liberal movement of Judaism (e.g. Reform Judaism).  Messianics will note that liberal groups such as the UMJC hold bat mitzvahs.

What are the Procedures for the Bar Mitzvah Process and Ceremony?

First, the boy will need a guide, some older man in the community who will walk the boy through the process, teaching him what it means to be a man, and what it means to be a man in a religious community.

Messianics don't always have someone who can teach them Hebrew or how to read the cantillation marks in the Torah portion.  But don't worry.  If it's not possible for the boy to learn to read Hebrew, the boy can simply learn the Hebrew blessing that is read before the reading of the Torah portion.  Then the boy can proceed to read the Torah portion in English if necessary.

Next, the guardian of the boy should finalize the ceremony by reciting the traditional blessing (CLICK HERE TO SEE THE BLESSING).

Lastly, you should have a festive meal to celebrate the occasion.  And here it's traditional for people to give gifts.  But the focus should be on celebrating the occasion.

And that's about it!  :  )

The boy just needs to learn some Hebrew--at least enough for the blessing over the Torah portion (although he should try to learn enough Hebrew to sound his way through the Hebrew reading of the Torah portion).  But, as Messianics, we do the best we can.  So one shouldn't stress too much about this.

Then a parental blessing followed by a festive meal!

If anyone would like to add something then please feel free.




  1. Peter, I was asked this question today and I thought the reply might be pertinent to our conversation regarding the Bar Mitzvah issue. Again, I'm not opposed to kabalah or masoret but feel a strong distinction between tradition/ritual and the clear teachings of Scripture must be maintained.

    What is the proper role of rituals in the life of the Christian?
    They are useful to build in reminders of what we should truly value or to set aside time to discipline ourselves to gratitude (Purim, Pesach’) or to repentance (Yom Kippur). They can also help us confess our faith before others (baptism). Yet we need to keep in mind that God prefers loving obedience to vain religious rituals (1 Samuel 15:22; Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 1:11-17; Hosea 6:6; Matthew 9:13; 1 Corinthians 7:19). Missing on a ritual is not what defiles us. It is our evil thoughts and the actions that they drive that defile us (Matthew 15:19-20). Rituals cannot save us (Hebrews 10:4; Ephesians 2:8-9). We need to be careful that we do not observe superficial rituals and forget to tend to our hearts (Mark 7:6 cp Matthew 15:8). Being part of the people of God does not stem from outward rituals but by “inward circumcision” (Romans 2:28). If we DO observe rituals (and it is impossible for humans to NOT have ANY rituals) then let us ensure that we are truly doing it out of grateful hearts to the Lord (with kavanah) (Romans 14:6) because God’s kingdom is not in eating and drinking but in righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).

    1. Amen!

      Thanks for sharing this with us brother!

      Shabbat Shalom,