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Will Mom's Conservative Bat Mitzvah Reform Her Ex?

Dear Cyber-Rav,

My friend, a divorced and single mother, never had a Bat Mitzvah. This seems to be very troubling to her son. His father tells him that he spends too much time in temple, that the time he spends in temple would be better spent doing sports. He hears his Dad tell him that his mom is "killing him" because she makes him go to temple and she didn't even have a Bat Mitzvah. Her son is often brought to tears by his father's hatred for religious instruction and it has been particularly intense as of late. The boy talks to me about how he doesn't understand why his mom doesn't know how to read Hebrew and how she didn't have a Bat Mitzvah.

I help him with his work, but he wants his mother to have a Bat Mitzvah so his Daddy will understand why he goes to temple. Do you have a program so that a woman can have a Bat Mitzvah?

If you do, what exactly does this involve? How much time, and what type of learning is involved? When you have a chance, please drop me a line. Maybe my friend and I could do the Bat Mitzvah together.

Seeking a Solution, And a Bat Mitzvah

The Cyber Rav Answers:

Dear Seeking,

There are a couple of issues here that need to be sorted out.

First of all, I recently finished the second Adult B'not Mitzvah class since coming to Midway. That means, to date, we have had over 35 women become Bat Mitzvah for the first time. Pretty good--yes? Depending on how much these women actually knew from the beginning, the road to Bat Mitzvah took either a full year or two years. The two year plan was for those who had to learn how to read Hebrew from scratch.

It was mostly a glorious experience for them. I would love for your friend to become a part of that sort of B'not Mitzvah group. The two of you would love it! But-and now we have to get into the second issue...

I suspect that Mr. Ex's intent is not so much to undermine his son's Jewish education as it is to punish your friend. What I would normally recommend under these circumstances is to have a lawyer or yourself contact him immediately and tell him, in no uncertain terms, that he is to stop undermining the boy's religious training lest it be necessary to take action against him in the courts. It is one thing for Mr. Ex to say that he is not religious; what is true is true. But it is a whole other thing to say that his mother is "killing him," or that sports are more important. He has no right to do that.

When the boy comes home and places demands on his mother to herself become a Bat Mitzvah, it suggests to me that his father's manipulative behavior is very effective. Your friend does not have to go through a ceremony even though she wants that for her son. Girls very often did not go through such ceremonies. And in any event, we can always tell the boy that his mother is already Bat Mitzvah! When a girl reaches 12 years and a day, she becomes Bat Mitzvah and is obligated to fulfill mitzvot and give her children a Jewish education, which is exactly what she is doing.

This may be an issue which is a bit too complicated to fully flesh out in an e-mail, but my point is that your friend's becoming a Bat Mitzvah, while in and of itself a wonderful thing, is not going to address the primary problem here--which is a father acting vindictively against his ex, using his child as the weapon of choice. This is simply unacceptable.

Let me know what you think and I'd be happy to meet with the two of you to more fully address the matters at hand.

The CyberRav

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