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Memorial Prayers During Bar Mitzvah Services
Reform Perspective by Rivka C. Berman

Many of us find ourselves celebrating the Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah of our children, joyously and gratefully, but with an underlying sadness caused by the absence of those who are no longer with us.  Parents, grandparents, and even siblings who have passed on way before their time.  We find ourselves wanting to include them in some way.  What should be done?

Though no formal ritual exists to honor the memory of a relative at a bat mitzvah, there are traditions to you may adapt. One can ask the cantor to chant the memorial prayer.  Lighting candles is another expression of Jewish mourning and memorial tradition, as flickering flames are symbolic of the soul. You may add a candle for your beloved relatives who have passed at a candle lighting ceremony or just include a candle for them on the cake.

It is also common and respectful to include special stories and anecdotes about the relationship between the person you are missing and the bat mitzvah girl and bar mitzvah boy, or how they are similar, or how something the celebrants evokes old and cherished memories. You may Include a tribute to the person in the bar mitzvah booklet with a picture and a brief poem or quotation. (Perhaps a copy of the speech given by those departed at another bar or bat mitzvah celebration.)

Life is beautiful and much of its beauty is brought upon by the constant renewal of life and memories.  Including the past in the present and in the hopes for the future makes the ceremony more meaningful, more spiritual and more emotionally rewarding.

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