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“That Bar Mitzvah was Torture,” Complained the Teenage Friend

Ever sat through a painfully boring Bar/Bat Mitzvah service?

I received this email from one disgruntled member:

Dear Rabbi: 

Here is one – honest and true 

We went to a Bat Mitzvah on Saturday at an out of town synagogue. I know it’s a different denomination of Judaism – but others have felt the same at Reform Temples too – so trust me when I say that it compels me to write that I am still reeling from the experience. 

I respect history, culture, tradition, etc. I know that traditions are important…. 

As we leave, my son tells me that sitting in that room is worse than torture. I can’t disagree. In a world of electronic stimulation, and much more, that service was as close to torture as you can possibly get. 

Modern religion has lost touch with any semblance of something compelling, interesting, or worse, any sense of taking home something valuable. If the only lesson to be learned is that there is a place AFTER, three hours of sheer boredom doesn’t compel many to want to hear about it. 

Good news – our Congregation has an amazing sales proposition in comparison with that type of synagogue offering. Our services have actual Real Live people who discuss interesting, current events and relate them to history. We walk away feeling energized – not exhausted, enriched by something of value, and possessing a sense of purpose, direction, clarity, and confidence. 

Just thought I would rant and share.

So I wonder:

  • What does it take to make the Bar/Bat Mitzvah experiences meaningful to the teens and to the adults?
  • Have we descended into ritualism that the service is not meaningful to most worshippers, except perhaps for the symbolic passing down of the Torah, parent speeches, the kid’s D’var Torah, or participation in an aliyah?
  • Besides one’s own loved one’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah service, what has inspired you at other Bar/Bat Mitzvah services?

I’m interested, really, in your insights. Please share.

One comment

  1. Anonymous says:

    By shaping your own destination for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah) ,substance and utilizing creativity and Jewish values and ethics, while not totally getting rid of the traditional core in the services(in Hebrew: Matbe'ah Tefilah), the event could be upgraded and shortened.
    People are doing this in the reform and Conservative congregations, and to a certain extent at the Orthodox as well…. Here is what I mean by upgrading

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