A Jewish child needs neither a formal ritual nor party to enter adulthood. At age 12 for a girl or 13 for a boy, the obligations of a Jewish adult are assumed. However, for many centuries Jewish boys have been called to the Torah to mark this transition. In modern times, the event has been enhanced with a celebration. In 1922, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan paved the way for his daughter Judith to take her place before the Torah as the first ever bat mitzvah.
The bat mitzvah ceremony affirms the essential role of women in Jewish religious communities. The bat mitzvah ceremony kindled the integration of women into Jewish ritual practices. Communities across the spectrum of Jewish religious life offer different bat mitzvah approaches. Yet, with each bat mitzvah we affirm both the obligations of adulthood and the fuller participation of women as spiritual partners in Judaism.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהו׳׳ה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם,
שֶׁהֶחֱיָֽנוּ וְקִיְּמָֽנוּ וְהִגִּיעָֽנוּ לַזְּמַן הַזֶּה.
Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha’olam,
Shehecheyanu v’kiyemanu v’higi’anu lazman hazeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Source of all being,
Who has given us life, sustained us and brought us to this moment.
May you know great joy, happiness and fulfillment in your life. May you walk with your people in pride, and may you understand that to be a Jew is a source of joy and meaning and an important responsibility. May you honor your parents, recognizing that they have brought you into the world in love and in hope, and may you bring them great joy. May you go from strength to strength, yet always be able to accept your own weaknesses and those of others. May you judge yourself and others with fairness and compassion, without harshness. May you have the confidence and self-esteem to more towards whatever goals you choose for yourself. May you have the wisdom and courage to change your mind if your original goals are replaced by newer and better ones. May you allow yourself to dream your dreams and soar with flight of fancy and imagination. May you always keep a precious part of yourself as “Child” even as you move into adulthood. May your ears be filled with music of every imaginable kind, and may the rhythms be or your own making. Allow yourself to march at your own pace. May you experience those inevitable moments of sadness and pain, which are also a part of life, in a way which will give these moments meaning and add value to your life. May you live in a world blessed with peace and harmony and may your future be as bright and as hopeful as the world’s first rainbow.
Rabbi Leila Gal Berner
May you live to see a world that you create.
May your future shine in ways we can scarcely imagine.
May your hope span the generations.
May your heart learn understanding.
May you speak words of wisdom and sing songs of joy.
May your vision be clear before you.
May your eyes shine with the light of wise teachings,
May your face glow with the light of heaven,
May you run to discover the radiance of the Holy Blessed One.
We wish for you to be a person of character
Strong, but not tough
Gentle, but not weak.
We wish for you to be righteous, but not self-righteous
Honest, but not unforgiving.
Wherever your journey,
May your steps be firm and may you walk in just paths and not be afraid. Whenever you speak, May your words be words of wisdom and friendship.
May your hands build and your heart preserve what is good and beautiful in the world.
May the voices of the generations of our people move through you
And may the God of our ancestors be your God as well.
May you know that there is a people, a rich heritage, to which you belong. And from that sacred place, you are connected to all who dwell on earth.
May the stories of our people be upon your heart,
And may the grace of the Torah rhythm dance in your soul.
I want to tell you a secret, kid.
Although we say today you are an adult,
because the calendar page has turned,
because your age now has two digits,
because you have studied and prayed
and read and written and worried and hoped
to prepare for this, your big day,
your childhood will continue forever in you,
its questions, fears, wonders, dreams, magic.
Though you take on the stature of adulthood,
its responsibilities, powers, doubts, alleged wisdom,
you will always be a child deep inside,
wandering, seeking, finding, losing, finding, living.
This is the day that God has made— let us exult and rejoice on it.