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Becoming an adult b'nai mitzvah

02/20/2020 12:33:38 PM


Rabbi Dan Dorsch

I’m beginning to get really excited about our Adult B'nai Mitzvah service on April 25. Why? Because each time I meet with one of the participants, I am beginning to see how profoundly they have been shaped by this experience.
Together, my class has spent nearly thirty Sundays over the past year and a half learning the intricacies of Judaism. Many had never before read Hebrew, let alone used our Melton curriculum to explore the purposes and reasons behind Jewish practices. They’ve worked hard to prepare. A few have even invested their own funds in hiring private tutors to assist them on the way.
Some were raised in an era at congregations where women did not have b'nai mitzvah. Others are converts to Judaism. We have a Soviet refusnik who lived in a country where practicing the Jewish religion was against the law, making a bat mitzvah impossible. Still others were subject to different levels of family challenges that precluded them from having a simcha. Or, they grew up in a secular Jewish family that did not find meaning in the tradition at all.
One by one, my students have shared their stories with me over the past year and a half. Most acknowledge that they have gone on to live adult Jewish lives. They attend synagogue with differing levels of regularity. They feel connected. Those who have children made sure that they became b'nai mitzvah or will do so in the future.
But still, to quote the Talmud, each of them lived as palga nafsha, half a soul. Something was missing. They had never experienced reading from the Torah. The siddur remained elusive book. In short, they were Jewish adults, but perhaps, not adults who felt entirely at home in their Judaism.
That’s why I can’t wait for April 25. It’s time for these dozen b'nai mitzvah to find the other half of their nefesh, their Jewish soul and finally come home.
Fri, April 3 2020 9 Nisan 5780