Many mitzvah moms and dads struggle with the tradition of candle lighting. They worry about offending or excluding family and friends, their kids spend hours writing rhyming poems instead of studying their Haftorah portions and song selections become a family debate. All the while, the underlying question remains – how can a Bar Mitzvah candle lighting ceremony be unique, memorable and “cool”, all at the same time?
By adding mitzvot to a candle lighting ceremony using these creative ideas, your family is sure to add an extra special touch to your celebration. (adapted from In Any Event Blog)
1. CUP OF LIFE – Created by Rabbi Anchelle Perl. Fill 14 small cups of grape juice or wine (13 for each year plus one for good luck). One by one, they are poured by each honoree into a large brandy snifter. At the end, your child recites Kiddush and drinks from the snifter. Each cup represents an ingredient in the “recipe” for a good life: Cup of Good Health, Wisdom, Faith, Compassion, Good Humor, Dedication, Success, Prosperity, Generosity, Friendship, Happiness, Love, Humility, Patience, etc…
2. ALL INCLUSIVE – Place a votive candle and a book of matches at each place setting. For young adults and children, use battery operated flameless candles which can be purchased from Michaels craft store or Save-On-Crafts.com. Also consider giving everyone flash lights in lieu of candles which double as favors.
Dim the lights. As your child lights each candle, he/ she will call upon a particular group of guests to light their own candles. Ideally, by the time your child lights the last candle, everyone has lit theirs and the room is glowing. Create your own groups. (ie. Grandparents, Family Friends, Cousins, Camp Friends, etc.)
”Because you mean so much to me and I’m grateful that you’re all here today to help me celebrate, I’d like to call upon each of you to participate in my candle lighting from your tables.”
3. VALUES – Work with your child to identify qualities in your honorees which he/she hopes to incorporate into his/her own life. Have your child tell a short anecdote about how each quality is reflected in that person or group of people. For instance, “I remember my grandfather whistled everyday. I think it was because he was content with his life, everyday. Now, when I whistle, I realize it’s because I’m content. Thank you, grandpa.” Other qualities to consider are Consideration, Strength, Compassion, Honesty, Reliability, Humor, Courage, Honor, Tenacity, Creativity, Intelligence, Cooperation, Love and Patience.
4. MITZVAH PLEDGE – Have your child pledge 13 mitzvah or good deeds that he or she plans to achieve, either over the next year or over his or her lifetime. It can range from helping around the house without being asked to organizing volunteers at soup kitchens. Ask each guest to silently light his or her candle at their table and make a mitzvah pledge of their own.
5. WISDOM – Combine the montage with the candle lighting by hiring a company that specializes in combining video and photos. Have them film interviews with honorees. Long distance relatives can be recorded by phone. Each honoree offers words of wisdom your child. Candles can be lit live by your child as he/she watches candles being lit in the video.
This idea can also be accomplished without a montage. Ask honorees to offer a blessing or words of wisdom to your child when they’re called up to light the candle. Be sure give enough advance notice so that honorees can prepare something appropriate and don’t forget to tell them to keep it short. One or two sentences per candle is perfect.
6. PLANT A TREE – Instead of lighting candles, plant 14 trees in Israel. Display 14 saplings during the reception in the same way you would display a cake with a small card in front of each explaining the Honorees they represent. This is a great option for families who don’t actually want a candle lighting ceremony.
7. VOLUNTEER – Take photos of your child doing 13 volunteer projects and create a montage. Have him/her dedicate each mitzvah to an honoree. For example, “To my Grandmother, who always read to me and continues to inspire my education, I donated books to our local library” or “To my Aunt and Uncle, who taught me to reuse, renew and recycle, I planted a tree in Israel”.
8. REMEMBER US PROJECT – The simple act of remembering someone restores that person’s value and meaning, and adds meaning and value to your own life. One-and-a-half million Jewish children were lost during the Holocaust before they had a chance to grow into Jewish adults, many before their own call to the Torah. Visit www.remember-us.org to request a name of one of these children. Dedicate the first candle to this lost child and ask your child make a commitment to saying the Kiddush prayer on the anniversary of his/her Bar/Bat Mitzvah each year, so they never forget.