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​The Innovative End of Summer Bar Mitzvah

Rabbi Ephraim Epstein

Those boys and girls who live in the Western Hemisphere and were unluckily born in the summer sure have it tough. Their birthdays are always when none of their friends are around. So some families make parties earlier, some make it later and some just give up celebrating. What about the Bar Mitzvah?

Towards the end of the summer a fine young man, Yonah, who hardly ever celebrated his birthday on time emerged as a Bar Mitzvah. The family was able to schedule it right after Camp Season concluded and before the beginning of the School Year. A warm mix of relatives, friends and congregational family were present for the great day.

After a fine davening, leyning and Dvar Torah the family invited their guests to sit down to the Bar Mitzvah Luncheon. The proud father, Heshy ascended the podium to welcome all of the guests and shared his and his son’s emotional and spiritual journey towards the Bar Mitzvah celebration.

You see, it was under two years ago that Yonah’s Zayde, an immigrant to this country passed away. Zayde was mentioned many times at the Simcha, and everyone felt his presence there. When Zayde died, it was decided that Yonah would have the merit, privilege and responsibility of wearing his Zayde’s Tefillin.

It was a challenge to find a skillful Sofer that was able to properly refurbish the aged Tefillin and prepare them for Yonah, but they did. The Tefillin were ready just in time for donning a few weeks before the Bar Mitzvah. Yonah’s face shone when we wore the Tefillin.  

While all the preparations were taking place at home and in the shul, Heshy’s friends and colleagues at work and around town started asking him: “So what’s the theme”? Heshy was informed that some kids use Sports Teams, some like Sports Cars and others Musical Groups. Heshy started thinking maybe he forgot to create a theme.

The family discussed it and decided that indeed they did have a theme. Yonah’s theme is the same theme that Bar Mitzvah boys have celebrated for millennia – MITZVOTH-What a novelty. Yonah, Heshy, the entire family and all the guests sincerely celebrated a Jewish boys entree and acceptance of the Divine Commandments-Mitzvot.

This End of the Summer Bar Mitzvah punctuated a vital lesson about living a Torah True Life: When it comes to tradition and Mesorah, innovation detracts from the genuineness of the Tradition. We live in a fast paced and ever changing innovative world; but the best theme of a Bar Mitzvah is simply the Mitzvoth we have studied and practiced since Mt. Sinai.  


Press Release

  • With the approach of the Chanukah season, marking the Maccabees’ valiant efforts to defend Jewish values and time-honored practices, a group of over 100 American-trained Orthodox Rabbis issued a statement this week reaffirming traditional Jewish views of marriage. The group of Orthodox rabbis represents a spectrum within the community, spanning nineteen states in the United States and three other countries, and the signatories include several prominent Orthodox rabbinic scholars, synagogue rabbis, organizational rabbis, and other Orthodox rabbinic thinkers in the United States and Israel.  ¶ In their statement, the rabbis clarified that “Jewish tradition unequivocally teaches that marriage can only exist as a union between a man and a woman, to the exclusion of a homosexual relationship. It is a distortion of Torah to confound that sacred principle.” Expressing disapproval of recent media reports that have suggested possible movement towards a change in the position of Orthodox Judaism on the subject of gay marriage, the rabbis emphasized: “The public should not be misled into thinking that Orthodox Jewish views on this issue can change, are changing, or might someday change. The Rabbinical Council of America recently declared that ‘the Torah, which forbids homosexual activity, sanctions only the union of a man and a woman in matrimony.’ This is the only statement on this matter that can reflect Orthodox Judaism. Any claims or statements to the contrary are inaccurate and false.”  ¶ In their letter, the Orthodox rabbis reaffirmed Orthodox Judaism’s recognition of the inherent conflicts sustained by some who seek to live an authentically Orthodox Torah life while confronting personal challenges that threaten to compromise their abilities to live conforming to Torah values.  ¶ Expressing compassion and emphasizing the traditional role of pastoral care played by Orthodox rabbis as accessible life counselors, the rabbis added: “Rabbis are always available to discuss congregants’ personal issues, including sexuality. We understand from our experiences in offering pastoral care that some individuals experience deep inner conflict as they seek a holy path to serve G-d and to fulfill their spiritual needs. As rabbis, we devote our lives towards helping all those in our broader community achieve their loftiest spiritual potential, while fully upholding the timeless values expressed in our Holy Torah.” Nevertheless, the rabbis made clear that “By definition, a union that is not sanctioned by Torah law is not an Orthodox wedding, and by definition a person who conducts such a ceremony is not an Orthodox rabbi.”