The members of Congregation Beth Emeth (CBE) and the host family are delighted to welcome you to our services. Many of our visitors are here to celebrate the Bar/Bat Mitzvah of a friend or family member, which will be celebrated during our Shabbat (Sabbath) morning service, or in some cases during a Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning or Monday holiday morning service. Together we thank you for making this Shabbat, holiday or simchah (joyous occasion) more special with your presence.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony takes place when a Jewish child reaches the age of 13. The words Bar/Bat Mitzvah mean “son/daughter of a mitzvah.” A mitzvah is an action which connects Jews both to the divine and to all other Jews past, present, and future. In practical terms this means the Jewish child is considered old enough to assume the rights and responsibilities of Jewish adulthood. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah will now be expected to fulfill these moral and ethical commandments throughout his/her daily life.
Our Synagogue & Customs
Congregation Beth Emeth (translated as House of Truth) is a Conservative synagogue that observes traditional customs. All men and boys are asked to cover their heads with a kippah/yarmulke to show their respect for God. For women, covering the head is encouraged, but not required unless going up onto the bimah. Kippot are available when you enter the synagogue. Jewish men and many Jewish women wear a tallit (prayer shawl) as a reminder of the 613 commandments recorded in the Torah.
Shabbat is a day of sanctity and rest from certain actions, beginning at sundown on Friday evening and ending when three stars can be seen in the sky on Saturday night. We therefore ask that while at our synagogue during these times, you refrain from telephone use, photography, writing, smoking, videotaping, and handling money. Please turn off your mobile devices.
You may enter or leave the sanctuary during the service, except when the congregation is standing, the Torah is being read, or the Rabbi is speaking. Please follow the ushers’ instructions.
In front of you is the bimah (raised podium), the focal point of the sanctuary, and the Aron HaKodesh (Holy Ark) which contains the Torah scrolls. The Torah scrolls are the Five Books of Moses handwritten by a scribe on parchment in Hebrew. The Hebrew inscription above the Holy Ark means, "Know Before Whom You are Standing." Behind you are stained glass representations of Jewish life from Biblical through modern times. On the right are plaques honoring the memory of loved ones who have passed away.
The Shabbat (Saturday) Morning Service
Today’s service will last approximately three hours and consists of three parts: Shacharit (morning service), Torah Service, and Musaf (concluding service). The centerpiece is the Torah service when the Torah is removed from the ark to be read. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah will read from the Torah for the first time as an adult, may chant a haftarah — a selection from the biblical books of the Prophets — and will present a drash (lesson) based on today’s readings.
During the Torah service, the weekly reading is divided into sections, each called an aliyah. At least eight people, including the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, will be honored by being called up for an aliyah to the Torah. Before and after each section of the Torah is read, the individual called up for that aliyah recites a blessing.
Whenever the ark is opened, the congregation rises to show their respect for the sacred nature and holiness of the Torah and its message. At the beginning and at the conclusion of the Torah service, the scroll is carried around the sanctuary. This ceremony demonstrates that the Torah belongs to the entire congregation, and worshipers respectfully greet and kiss the Torah as it passes as a sign of devotion to God’s teachings.
Two books are used during the service – Sim Shalom, the blue prayer book, and Etz Hayim, the larger red volume, which contains the Torah, selections from the Prophets, and commentary. Please do not place these books on the floor; instead, place them in the book rest beneath the chair in front of you. A transliteration of many of the Shabbat prayers is available in the lobby for those who don’t read Hebrew.
Other Services When A Bar/Bat Mitzvah May Be Held
When a service is held on Saturday afternoon, Sunday morning or a Monday holiday morning, the service is slightly different than described above for Shabbat Morning:
- The service is generally shorter.
- A smaller number of Torah readings are chanted, and fewer congregants/guests are honored with a role in the Torah service.
- Some services may not include chanting a haftarah (selection from the biblical books of the Prophets) after the Torah readings.
- We still ask that you turn off your mobile device and refrain from telephone use, photography, and smoking inside the sanctuary during the service, and that guests not record video in the sanctuary. However, photography/video and use of devices is allowed in other parts of the building, and smoking is permissible in front of the building near the bench. (Note: the Shabbat restrictions on these activities at the synagogue applies at Saturday afternoon events until Shabbat is over, generally 45 minutes after sundown.)
At some services, you will notice on the bema a Torah to the right of the ark, donated in memory of a congregant's mother. It is one of over a thousand Torahs preserved from Czechoslovakian synagogues looted by the Nazis during World War II, and was cared for by the Czech government until finding its home here at CBE via the Westminster Synagogue Memorial Scrolls Trust. Through this Torah, we remember family members or others who perished in the Holocaust. The presence of the Holocaust Torah is a living symbol of how, no matter what, as Jews we pass on our traditions from generation to generation.
After the Service
After the service, the entire congregation joins together for a kiddush (a snack or luncheon) in the social hall. Bar/Bat Mitzvah guests may also be invited to a private luncheon at the synagogue or offsite after joining the congregational kiddush for a few minutes.
Many of our Bar/Bat Mitzvah students undertake a "Mitzvah Project", which is a project to help others in the synagogue or in the community in some significant way. We encourage projects related to the student's personal interests and hobbies. A selection of current projects — especially thoses where participation and/or assistance of friends, family and the congregation is requested — are described on the Mitzvah Project page so that you can consider taking part.