Bat Mitzvah at the Bimah

Dear Rabanit Cohen,
I classify myself a modern Jewish woman. I grew up in a home where boys and girls were equal and able to achieve anything. My daughter’s Bat Mitzvah is coming up and she is asking why she cannot go to up to the bimah to read from the Torah like her reformed female cousins do. Is there any way to get past this or is this just the way it is?


Dear Reader,
Thank you very much for sharing and asking. There were times I myself wished I could stand there in front of the Aron Kodesh and daven to Hashem. I am sure there is a profound difference in the feeling one feels when standing so close to the Torah and even holding it – but in Judaism, the roles of men and women are quite clear and distinct. There are some things that a man cannot do but a woman can, and vice versa. This is no indication that one or the other is inferior.

Women do not HAVE to be like men, and men do not HAVE to be like women. Every single creation has a purpose in this world which no one else but he or she can accomplish. A rock need only be a rock not a tree. Every one of our actions has spiritual consequences and effects which we do not necessarily see. Why doesn’t a woman require a Brit Milah? Because a woman does not need the spiritual elevation of milah. Nor does she need an “aliyah” to the Torah.

The word “aliyah” means to be called up, be elevated; a woman does not need the public elevation which comes from being called up to the Torah. This is because she is naturally elevated due to her unique spiritually sensitive feminine soul and because she achieves elevation through observing those special mitzvot which are designed to elevate the Jewish woman.

A young woman definitely can and should have a Bat Mitzvah, but it should be a BAT mitzvah, not a BAR mitzvah. Do not forget that your daughter is celebrating being a woman, not a man. A Bat Mitzvah is the moment when a Jewish girl becomes a woman. You and your daughter may want to focus on the mitzvot which are particularly pertinent to women, such as lighting Shabat candles, baking Challah. If you wish, you can call me and I will be more than happy to give you some ideas that will help make your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah a spiritual affair that she will always remember and cherish.

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