Attending a Bar Mitzvah

This past weekend, I attended a Bar Mitzvah of a boy in our community. It was a lovely service and quite intimate since it was held  at a local hotel easily accessible to all of the guests from out of town. About a half an hour after I arrived,  a woman sat in the row in front of me. She seemed unsure of what to do and I figured she was a non Jewish guest. I leaned forward and told her what page we were on, she actually got up and moved to sit next to me.

She had a camera in her hand and I gentle told her that she shouldn’t try to take any photos (many observant Jews don’t use any kind of electricity or electronics on Shabbat and this could have been offensive to people who were attending.) Sitting next to her I began to think about how this service might seem to someone who didn’t know the customs. Why do we throw candy at the bar/bat mitzvah child during the service?  Being unfamiliar with customs and rituals of a given group can be very intimidating.  Anytime we attend a meeting, religious service or another group gathering it is always nice to be greeted by a smiling stranger who helps us through the moments of disorientation. Remember to do that the next time you see a stranger in your midst.

889) Befriended a stranger and tried to help her through the Bar Mitzvah service we were attended.

890) Complimented someone on her dress.

891) Helped find the rightful owner to a lost coat.

892) Gave a thank you note and small gift to our neighbor who helped Gabrielle recently.

Why do we throw candy at a Bar Mitzvah? I looked up why we throw candy and  historically there has been the custom to throw candy at a groom who is called up in the service the week before his wedding to wish him a sweet new life as a married man. In the past 50 years, the custom has extended to the bar mitzvah celebrations as well to add to the festivities or to signify the sweetness of the new obligations of mitvzahs that are being taken on. Honestly, I think that the attendees enjoy it just as much  as the bar mitzvah child since once the candy is thrown the other children collect it  and many congregants get to eat some of it. This is an important energy boost for the last 1/3 of the service.