Mitzvah & Bat Mitzvah: Candle Lighting Ceremony
by Rivka C. Berman
Candles are lit at Jewish holidays and throughout the Jewish lifecycle. Every
Shabbat begins and ends with candles. Yahrzeit candles are lit to commemorate
loved ones. There are sources for lighting candles during a brit. However,
there is no religious significance in lighting candles at a bnei mitzvah
How candle-lighting ceremonies grew into an integral ritual in many communities
is speculated upon. Enterprising caterers are said to have originated the custom
in the 1950s as a mix between the birthday cake candle and aliyah-like feel of
calling people up to light.
Though the custom is not historically religious nor a ritual of yore, there is
nothing inappropriate with it. In fact, candle lighting is a nice way to
honor people and is also a lovely photo opportunity. Whether to include a candle
lighting ceremony in your celebration or not is a personal choice.
Candle Lighting Ceremony
The ceremony usually consists of calling up thirteen people or groups of people
who each light a candle. The bar mitzvah boy or bat mitzvah girl, or the
master of ceremonies announces each honoree, and as they make their way to the
podium, an explanation is provided to the crowd expressing the significance of
the relationship between the honoree and the celebrant. The honorees may either
just light the candle, or add to the festivities with a comment or a blessings.
Ideas and suggestions for the ceremonial honors:
Call up each person with a rhyme
Have candle lighters offer a personal blessing from the
traditional to the ridiculous (May you improve your jump shot.)
Every candle lighter can present the bat mitzvah with a Jewish
gift: a havdalah spice box, a seder plate, candlesticks. As each gift is given,
the candle lighter explains the significance and why he chose to give this gift.
(Be sure the gifts are different.)
Hold a puzzle piecing ceremony instead. Begin with a
poster-sized picture of the bat mitzvah girl or bar mitzvah boy as a baby, and
mount it on cardboard. Blow up a more current picture of the bat mitzvah girl,
and mount it on a foam board. Using a razor, cut the foam board into
interlocking puzzle-like pieces. At the ceremony, everyone who comes up fits a
piece of the grown-up picture over the baby picture. The activity recognizes
those who have helped the bat mitzvah along her journey to maturity.
Caterers may supply the thirteen long tapers and
candelabra stands. At some bar mitzvah parties, candles are lit on the
cake itself. If you choose that method, be sure to protect the cake from wax
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