There are basically four areas of participation for a Bar/Bat Mitzvah at a Shabbat morning service: to be a sh’liach tzibur (leader of worship), to chant from the Torah, to read or chant the haftarah; and to offer a D’var Torah (a word of Torah) or teaching/sermon on the week’s Torah portion.
The Sh’liach Tzibur – Leading the Prayers
One of the oldest and most prestigious roles in the synagogue is to be the sh’liach tzibur. Literally, the “representative of the community;” the sh’liach tzibur leads the congregation in prayer. Each Bar/Bat Mitzvah student joins with the liturgical soloist in this sacred role.
In addition to the prayers learned before entering the program the Bat/Bar Mitzvah will now acquire mastery of: bracha (blessing) for wearing tallit, Friday night kiddush, blessings before and after the Torah reading, blessing before and after the haftarah reading, and the prayers of the Torah service. Once those prayers are mastered the tutor
will add other prayers of the service (beginning with the morning blessings) to the student’s curriculum based on each student’s ability.
The D’var Torah – Sermon
Prior to the reading of Torah, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will deliver a brief sermon,
related to the weekly Torah portion that will be prepared in consultation with the rabbi, and with the help and guidance of parents.
The K’riat Hatorah- Torah Service
Each Bar/Bat Mitzvah assumes the role of the baal(at) k’riah, “Torah reader,” for the day. This entails the learning of a section of the weekly Torah portion which usually amounts to twelve to sixteen verses. The sefer Torah scroll that is in the ark in our sanctuary is unvocalized (without the diacritical vowels or accents); moreover, each student is expected to learn the trope or traditional cantillation melody. This skill is taught by the tutor in private tutoring sessions, and with the use of Trope Trainer software.
Following the reading of Torah, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah will read or chant the haftarah or additional readings from the prophets. Most of our students deliver this reading in English translation. Students who have mastered the prayers and Torah portion of their service may be assigned a small portion of the haftarah to chant in Hebrew. Like
the Torah reading, the haftarah is chanted according to a specific melody to be learned with the use of Trope Trainer, and the help of the tutor. If you would prefer your child to chant the haftarah in Hebrew, please inform Rabbi Kramer.
There is a minhag (custom) at CST for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah to lead the congregation in V’ahavtah and Kiddush at the Friday night service. It is also our minhag for the parents to introduce their guests to the congregation, and for women who have gathered for the occasion to light the Shabbat candles at this service. There is no need to teach your guests the blessing: all you need do is stand together, light the candles, and sing with the liturgical soloist who is leading the blessing for the congregation.
An Important Note
We serve to make every Bar/Bat Mitzvah service special, even though students
participate in the service in similar ways; there are occasions when special
circumstances necessitate an adjustment in the student’s participation. We will
do everything possible to work with each student as an individual, with the
ultimate goal of maximizing his or her self-esteem and sense of accomplishment. Please feel free to discuss any concerns you might have with Rabbi Kramer or Rabbi George. We are committed to make every child’s experience meaningful and positive.