Bar/Bat Mitzvah Parties — Remembering What Matters Most

Bat Mitzvah Hora
Lucy (Andy's daughter) at her Bat Mitzvah party, October 27, 2012.

How can you plan a fun AND meaningful bar/bat mitzvah celebration?

Far too many people plan “over-the-top” bar and bat mitzvah parties. For a hilarious, but searing critique of this phenomenon, we encourage you to watch the movie Keeping Up with the Steins — a modern classic. As the title suggests, we can all get lost in trying to “keep up” with or impress others, even while marking a sacred occasion.

In thinking about this temptation and the sad reality of the competitive bar/bat mitzvah culture, we’re sharing an excerpt (edited) from Caroline Goldfarb’s (Andy’s daughter) bat mitzvah teaching in which she spoke of the importance of balancing the “holy day” and “holiday” aspects of this rite of passage:

The way you decide to spend your bar or bat mitzvah day determines whether it is a holiday or a holy day. Notice how close these two words are. A holiday belongs to us; it’s about what we want, when we want it, and how we will do it. It’s about having fun, without necessarily thinking about why we are celebrating. A holy day belongs to God, and it requires us to reflect on the meaning of our lives… Any special occasion can be either a holiday or a holy day… In thinking honestly about my own bat mitzvah experience today, I would say that I have landed somewhere in the middle along the continuum. Of course, I do care about my dress and the party, but I also care a lot about the service I am helping to lead and my growth as a Jewish person. I like to think of my bat mitzvah experience as a person holding two weights: one symbolizing the party and one symbolizing the service. I need to be strong and balanced to hold both. I am trying to make this day a “holy holiday.”

Andy & daughter, Caroline dance

Andy & Caroline (Andy’s daughter) celebrate her Bat Mitzvah, May 9, 2009.

We realize it is a struggle to achieve the kind of balance Caroline spoke of at her bat mitzvah. It is important that we mark the seasons of the year and of our lives thoughtfully and joyously. That is the animating spirit of Breaking Matzo: making these occurrences “magical, meaningful, and memorable”! Given the unfortunate tendency in today’s culture to tip the scales towards big, expensive, and flashy bar/bat mitzvah parties, it is important to remember what we are celebrating and why we are doing so. Keeping these things in mind, experiencing “holy holidays” is possible…Just imagine!

Please share this with your bar/bat mitzvah child…
How do you envision your bar/bat Mitzvah service and party? How can you relate your Torah portion to your life today? How will you make your bar/bat mitzvah a truly “holy holiday”?