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September 4, 2015 | 20th Elul 5775

B'nei Mitzvah Shabbat Service: Suggested Adaptation Guidelines

by Rabbi Edwin C. Goldberg

 Temple Judea • Coral Gables, FL

Hopefully in a few months’ time Reform synagogues will begin using Mishkan T’filah (MT) at their Shabbat services which include b’nei mitzvah. In addition to the general issues surrounding using the new siddur, there are concerns specific to using the siddur with b’nei mitzvah conducting the service and with b’nei mitzvah guests attending the service. The concerns are not hard to imagine, but are worth spelling out.

  1. How can a synagogue best prepare the bar/bat mitzvah to use the siddur comfortably and with ease?
  2. How can the congregation—including perhaps more guests than regulars—use the siddur in a way that will promote participatory worship?

It is my suggestion that the rules of Occam’s razor be applied, in that we should keep the process as simple as possible, while at the same time taking full advantage of the wonderful resources that MT provides. In practical terms this means that, given the newness of the siddur, and the relatively complicated structure of the two-page spread, it is advisable to employ Shabbat Morning Service II as the “default” bar/bat mitzvah Shabbat morning service. Its linear set up will enable an easier conducting experience on the part of the bar/bat mitzvah and will engender more congregational participation without too many page number announcements.

Another concern deals with the actual siddur that the b’nei mitzvah will use. Ideally, they can have the edition that does not feature transliteration while the rest of the congregation has the transliteration. If there is a large print version of this siddur (i.e., the edition without transliteration), it would be ideal for student use.

As far as the actual service goes, the linear service affords opportunities for Hebrew and English readings in the Sh’ma and Its Blessings and Amidah rubrics that are similar to Gates of Prayer in format, although different in content. Some of the English readings might even be assigned to bar/bat mitzvah family members. The Birkot Hashar and P’sukei D’zimrah sections are new, and of course will most likely be featured only in part. (It is a nice addition to have the Ashrei in the morning).

I plan to use a large edition non-transliterated version of the Shabbat Morning Service II and write in for the students the announcements they will have to make. In general, I see the format similar to the current Gates of Prayer, with the best addition being the transliteration of all prayers for the congregation.

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