Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Another Bar Mitzvah? Why at 83?

Dear Tanta Golda,
Recently the dad of a friend of mine had a ‘second’ bar mitzvah. I didn’t know this was a thing. Why would someone want to go through all that again?

Darling Bemused,

Come here and let me pinch your cheek. Being called to the Torah as a Bar or Bat Mitzvah shouldn’t be seen as some onerous chore, though at 12-13 most of us did feel that way. Trust me, when it is something you yourself are choosing to do, it’s a different story.

Now to answer your question. In the Pirkei Avot- the Ethics of the Fathers, Rabbi Yehuda Ben Tema states that 70 is considered a "ripe old age.” In Psalm 90, Moses says that “the measure of a life is 70 years.” So, if one has the good fortune to live past this age it is as if they are given a second life. By starting at 70 and adding 13, one gets to 83. This is where the age of a second bar mitzvah comes from.

Now there are those who like to point out a) you become a bar mitzvah at 13, whether or not you are called to the Torah. (12 if you are a girl, we advance so much earlier.) 
b) one should be living a life of Torah from that point on, so the idea of a second bar mitzvah is mishegos. — Some people take all the joy out of symbolism.

What these points don’t take into account the spiritual re-connection that this being called for a second bar/bat mitzvah evokes. Any chance to re-connect with one’s Judaism should be honored and a cause for celebration.

As my friends at say so eloquently: May we all merit to live that long!

Tanta Golda


  1. As a 59 year old halachically born Jewish woman, but only beginning my own Jewish ath two and a half years ago(long story), does that mean I am already bat mitzvah, even though I didn't have the experience? (One o my dreams is to have the ceremony but for various reasons is unlikely that will happen, so it would be lovely to add this to my inner Jew... :)...)

    1. Crafty Wee Midden, Tanta Golda is embarrassed to note that it would appear I never responded to your query. I am so terribly sorry! How very rude of me.

      The question you ask is a tricky one. Technically, since you were born a Jew, you are Jewish, but it would seem from your question that you were not raised in our faith.

      A Bat or Bar Mitzvah is not just a ceremony, but a rite of passage that symbolizes that one has gained enough Jewish wisdom to follow the commandments. We say that children raised in traditional homes achieve that level of understanding of Torah by the age of 13, and become Bat or Bar Mitzvahs automatically at that age. But, it sounds like you were not taught about your Jewish traditions as a child.That being the case, from Tanta Golda's understanding, you would not be a Bat Mitzvah.

      Some rabbis might go so far as to suggest that you go through a course of study-a mini conversion if you like since the mitzvah of talmud Torah, Torah study, is incumbent upon a Jew throughout life (Mark Washofsky-Jewish Living).

      I hope that someday you are able to achieve your dream of having a ceremony in some form, but in any event, that you may continue to learn and grow as a Jew.


Please feel free to leave your questions for Tanta Golda here.