Saturday, June 4, 2016

First Bat Mitzvah

Kai and I experienced our first Bat Mitzvah last night.

A Bar Mitzvah (for boys) or Bat Mitzvah (for girls) is a traditional religious ceremony that usually marks a coming-of-age when Jewish kids turn 13. Kai’s aunt never had a Bat Mitzvah when she was 13, and decided that she wanted to do that now.

I learned that the participant in the Bat Mitzvah must go through months of preparation. For nine months, Karolyn and her fellow women got together every week to learn Hebrew and study with the Cantor.

Last night was the culmination of their studies.

Our original plan was that my wife would attend the Shabbot service at the temple where the B’not Mitvah (plural) would take place, while I would stay home with Kai. There was no way that he would sit through the service, we thought, which we understood could be long (at least 90 minutes) and quite boring to Kai, with many prayers in Hebrew. We didn’t want to risk that Kai would get loud and disrupt the ceremony.

We sent our regrets to Karolyn, and she said she understood. But reading between the lines of her email, I sensed disappointment that Kai would not be there.

I spoke with my wife about going with Kai and giving it a try.

And so the three of us ended up going. We thought it would be a good idea to go in separate cars in case I had to leave early with Kai. My wife rode with Kai’s grandmother, while I drove over there with Kai.

In the car I wanted to set proper expectations. It will be a new experience for us, I said, so let’s find out what it will be like. Aunt Karolyn will be so happy to see him, and this is a big occasion for her so he has to be very respectful. The ceremony will be long, and he cannot talk during it. Much of it will be in Hebrew, so it may be boring, but that’s okay, we will be experiencing something new.

He asked how many times Karolyn would have a Bat Mitzvah, though he really already knew that this was a one-time event. His question was a nod to the fact that just a few weeks ago, he and I had to miss Karolyn’s son’s college graduation party because Kai had had a terrible day at school and had to make up a lot of schoolwork that evening. I had scolded him then: “Do you know how many times Rudy will graduate from college? Once! And we’re missing the celebration.”

He seemed to understand that this too was a big occasion, maybe even bigger, and he shouldn’t mess it up.

At the temple, we met our extended family who were already there. Many came in from out of town for the event.

Kai and I found seats in the back row, again as contingency for having to make a quick exit.

It was a traditional Friday night Shabbat service with the B’not Mitzvah added on. Kai took great interest in the prayer book, and tried to follow along with each prayer and song. I was pleasantly surprised at how many songs the cantor sang, and it definitely helped to make things more interesting for Kai.

From time to time, the five women of the B’not Mitzvah would get up to speak, to either lead a prayer, give a speech, or later, to read from the Torah.

A couple different times Kai asked what time it was, but for the most part he did not seem restless. He sat quietly, paid attention to what was going on, and did not cause any disruption.

We were relieved, and very proud, that he handled things so well.

And his aunt was very happy that he had come!

As I said at the top, a Bat Mitzvah is traditionally a coming of age ceremony. In some ways, this one was a coming of age of sorts for Kai.


  1. I was thinking just what you had written in your last sentence.

    This was a coming of age for Kai. Bravo.

    1. Thanks, Shiroi. We were very happy that he did so well that evening.


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