This was a fun and fascinating column to write, as I had the opportunity to interview members of one of my favorite families: Rabbi Yossi Laufer, his wife, Shoshana, and two of their children, Bluma and Dovber. Together, they shared their experience of becoming a Bat and Bar Mitzvah.
“The Bar Mitzvah, meaning ‘son of the commandment,’ is used to denote both the ceremony itself as well as the celebrant. The Bat Mitzvah (‘daughter of the commandment’) is the counterpart for girls who have just turned twelve,” writes Lisa Mirza Grotts in “Bar and Bat Mitzvahs,” an article in the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com).
Rabbi Laufer talked about the training to become a Bar and Bat Mitzvah. He said, “Here’s the analogy. There is the animal soul and the godly soul, which we call the horse and the rider. The horse is in control and the rider is going along for the ride until the age of 13 for boys and age 12 for girls. During those early years, the child is training to take the reins so that when the time comes, he or she can take control of making decisions.”
He went on to explain that in Judaism, this coming of age ritual is often followed by a joyous party with family and friends.
I asked the Laufers’ son Dovber, who recently became a Bar Mitzvah, how life is different now. He said, “Now I can be part of a minyan, and put on tefillin. I can now lead parts of the services. I was practicing before. Now I can step into the role, and I really like it. It is very special.”
Shoshana Laufer added, “Now Dovber feels special because he can participate and lead parts of the service. He is enjoying the privilege of being a Bar Mitzvah boy.”
Bluma, Dovber’s sister, said, “Now, I have more responsibility and an obligation. I am now an employee of God. Everything I do is part of the job. Before, it was practice.”
Grotts summarizes this well in her article: “This coming-of-age ceremony celebrates a child’s acceptance as an adult member of his or her congregation. This means that he or she is now responsible for his or her own actions, and for following the Jewish commandments and rituals as detailed in the Torah. Prior to the ceremony, the boy or girl goes through a long period of religious instruction in preparation for the event.”
PATRICIA RASKIN, president of Raskin Resources Productions Inc., is an award-winning radio producer and Rhode Island business owner. She is the host of “The Patricia Raskin” show, a radio and podcast coach, and a board member of Temple Emanu-El, in Providence.