Bar Mitzvah Bucket List

What does it mean to become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah? As parents how often do we allow ourselves to ask this question? Far too often we see ourselves as consumers of the synagogue industrial complex who produce these experiences for our child. Even if we do ask this question, what is the possibility that our tween is asking that it means to become a Jewish adult? It is tragic to realize that our children are lead through these experience as if it was designed by Temple Grandin. The entire enterprise of synagogue education is leading them as painlessly as possible to this alter with no sacrifice. What would it take for us to stop being consumers and to empower our children to be producers of their own experience of becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah?

While I am happy consumer of synagogue life, I was not satisfied handing over the entirety of this sacred process to someone else. To that ends Adina and I instituted a process of creating a “Bar Mitzvah Bucket List” with Yadid in the years moving toward the event. This is a list of things that all three of us agree the child will accomplish before or during the year of becoming a Bar Mitzvah. I was thinking about this again when Yishama’s school brought together the 6th graders to help us the parents prepare for all of Bnei Mitzvah in the next two years.

As we learn in Proverbs:

 חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר עַל פִּי דַרְכּוֹ –Initiate a child according to his path so when he grows old, he will not turn away from it. ( Proverbs  22:6)

It is critical that we find a way to surface what grabs the child. Have we asked them? It is also important for us to find a way to share what think is the core to coming a Jewish adult in a way that is in conversation with their wants and desires. In partnership with our youth we need to make something that is rigorous and relevant. We need to empower our youth to be authentic authors of our collective narrative.

I have found that this process is a means of determining our highest values without getting lost in philosophical discourse with a 11 year old. I find that even when sharing this idea with parents, they too want me to bring this idea out of the clouds into the world of practicality. To this ends I wanted to share with you some examples from Yadid’s Bar Mitzvah Bucket List. Beyond reading Torah and giving a Dvar Torah we added things like:

  • Build something out of wood
  • Learn how to chop wood
  • Cook the family Shabbat dinner from soup to soup nuts
  • Make the Shabbat accoutrement  from kiddush cups to challah cover
  • Learn a masechet of Gemara – It was great having him Yadid do a siyum at his Bar Mitzvah
  • Interview a list of people we all agree on as to what it means to them to become a Jewish adult 
  • Hike a section of the Appalachian Trail and get a pen knife- This still needs to happen. 
  • Shul hop, it was good for him to learn how different kinds of Jews pray

This is a projection of what the three of us think it means to live as a Jewish adult. As you could see we did not accomplish everyhthing on the list, but it was amazing to transform being “Bar Mitzvahed” into a life long effort to becoming a Jewish adult. Now have a starting point to prepare for Yishama’s Bar Mitvah, I would welcome some practical suggestions at this point as well.

– Look at related piece on the 300 and Bnai Mitzvah


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