Y.J. asks from Las Vegas, NV on May 15, 2009
Our family attended a Bar Mitzvah last year and didn't know that it was three hours long. We noticed people arriving late and was wondering if that was normal. We have another to go to tomorrow and was thinking of getting there about an hour late but wasn't sure if that would be rude.
So What Happened?™
I am not jewish and wish I would have asked the question earlier in the week. I didn't reailze how much went into a Bar Mitzvah and regret not doing research before hand. We don't really understand what is actually taking place at the service but we should have arrived on time. My 10 year old son is friends with the child who use to live down our street and we were all invited although we don't know the family very well I should have phoned the mother to get a better feel for it. I tried earlier this week but I'm sure with all of the preperations they weren't able to recieve my call. It was still a lovely service and a wonderful Yiddish luncheon. I know better next time to make arrangements to have my toddler looked after or decline the invite. Thanks to all of you for your responses.
E.S. answers from Los Angeles on May 16, 2009
I would consider that rude, I think it's a tradition that should be respected. You either go on time and stay for it all or you don't go. Sorry, just my opinion.
S.F. answers from Reno on May 16, 2009
Wow! I'm surprised at the previous posts saying it's ok to show up late to a Bar Mitzvah. I would consider it very rude. I mean, yes, it's a long service, but would anyone consider showing up late to a wedding and High Mass, which is also very long?
Our children work so hard to be ready for their Bar Mitzvahs...how would they feel if they saw people arriving late, in the middle of their service? I won't even go into how distracting that would be.
I guess it was a really good thing that I sat in the front row during my oldest son's Bar Mitzvah so I didn't see everyone coming in late and, thus, couldn't get angry about it.
I'm sorry if it sounds like I guilt tripped you...that wasn't my intention. I'm just really amazed at the previous posts. Wowzers.
Good luck with your decision.
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N.N. answers from San Diego on May 16, 2009
It is usually members of the synagogue who come in late, because they are familiar with the service, and they are, well, members. They shouldn't, but they do it anyway.
If you are an invited guest of the b'nai mitzvah, it would be rude to come late, unless you had a real reason, like juggling multiple events, or your child had to be somewhere else at that time. Besides, if it is a different synagogue, you don't know the timing and content of their service, and you might miss something you would be sorry about later.
The polite way is to go as close to the requested time as you can. And enjoy it for the celebration that it is.
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J.W. answers from San Diego on May 16, 2009
Being late is always rude, if you are going be on time and stay the whole time.
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R.L. answers from Los Angeles on May 18, 2009
I'm sorry I didn't see this post on Friday! I know this info is late, but it may be useful for you or someone else in the future.
The Shabbat (Saturday) morning service is divided into several parts. The length of the service and the quantity of English used will vary depending upon denomination and from synagogue to synagogue. The format and duration is pretty similar for Conservative and Orthodox synagogues, so I'll describe those. Reform and reconstructionist synagogues are less likely to adhere to the more formal structure, but some certainly do.
The morning service is basically divided into 4 parts. The first part, p'seuke de zimre, is like a warm up. It includes prayers to be said upon rising and entering the synagogue and lots and lots of psalms. Many of these are chanted or sung, and many others are read silently. For the most part, they all have to do with G-d's graciousness for restoring the soul after the long night and exhalting G-d's magnificence. P'seuke de zimre usually lasts about 15 - 30 minutes, depending on whether or not the congregation reads the prayers in their entirety or only chooses to include some of the prayers.
Part 2, Shacharit, is the main body of the service and take about 45 minutes to an hour to complete. This service includes the call to prayer (the Barechu, when everyone gets up and bows) and the recitation of the Shema, which is the central tenet of Judaism (Listen O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one). It also includes the Amidah (the standing prayer, or eighteen benedictions) which, on the sabbath, include prayers for life, sustenance, and the achievement of G-d's desires for humanity (on weekdays, this prayer also includes petitions to G-d for various kinds of help, and one can always add ones own prayers and supplications as well). This is read first silently, then is repeated aloud by the Hazzan (Cantor) for anyone who is not capable of reading the blessings for oneself. The reader's repetition also includes the Kedushah, which is the pronouncement of G-d's glory and kingship over all of creation. This service is even longer on holy days when additional prayers are included in the Amidah and when Hallel (psalms of praise) are chanted. It is also a bit longer once a month when the new month is announced and a prayer for a good month is recited.
The third service is the Torah service, during which the weekly portion of the Torah (Old Testament: the 5 books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) is read. This is usually divided into 8 readings: 7 sections followed by a short repetition of the end of the last section. It is followed by the reading of the Haftorah, which is a reading the complements the Torah reading and is taken from the additional books of the Old Testament, usually Judges or Prophets. It is during the Torah service when the Rabbi usually gives a sermon or has the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child give a sermon interpretting the reading. This service takes about an hour.
The final part service is Musaf, which means "additional." This service was originally added for anyone who came late and missed the earlier services. It's pretty much a repetition of Shacharit, but without the call to prayer and the Shema. In some synagogues, the congregation will chant the Amidah together through the Kedushah, then read the rest silently, which shortens the service by about 10 minutes. Musaf takes about 20 - 30 minutes and includes the final prayers of the morning, including the mourners kaddish, which gives mourners and people observing the anniversary of a loved one's death the opportunity to remind themselves of the sovereignty of G-d, rather than dwelling on personal loss. BTW, you will notice that several versions of the Kaddish are recited throughout the morning. Kaddish in various forms is used to mark separation between the different parts of the services.
Whew, now that you've just completed Judaism 101 ;-), back to your original question. People often come late to the service. It is quite long to sit through the whole thing every week and some parts of the service don't speak to some people, or sometimes, people just want to sleep in a little! In most congregations, no one really looks askance at late comers, since prayer is a personal responsibility, not a communal one. Most of the prayers can be completed at home on one's own (with the exception of the Barechu, Shema, Kaddish, and Kedusha), and it is not necessary to hear the reading of the Torah aloud or hear the Rabbi's sermon. Learning can be done in private as well, although it is encouraged that study be done with at least a partner.
As for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child's role in the morning service, that will depend on the congregation and the ability/desire of the child. Some kids will lead the entire service and read the entire Torah and Haftorah (a true tour-de-force!), some will only lead a prayer here and there and read one section of the Torah and the full Haftorah. Some will only recite the blessing over the reading of a passage Torah. Whatever the child does, the purpose of the congregation is to welcome the child into the community as an adult with religious responsibilities, not to witness a performance, although it has become more of the latter over the last 50 years.
BTW, I think you meant Kiddush lunch, although calling it Yiddush lunch did bring a smile to my face!
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J.D. answers from Los Angeles on May 16, 2009
It's very typical to arrive late to services, especially if you're going with kids. My daughter had her Bat Mitzvah last year, and I made a point of telling everyone with kids when her part would start. Don't worry about it.
I've always considered myself lucky to live in a country where we can appreciate, and participate in our friends religous celebrations, even if it's different than own persuasion. I've lived abroad and can tell you this is perhaps the only country where that can freely happen. Have fun!
M.M. answers from Los Angeles on May 16, 2009
Some are longer than others but if you choose to attend the service be on time. Most people will not fault you for skipping the service and attending the reception if you are not of that faith. It is an important day that a lot of time, money,countless hours & years of preparation to get to that special moment. It is great that you support your friends while also encouraging your kids to be a part of something different but very special. In the long run everyone wins. :) Have a wonderful day!
C.T. answers from Los Angeles on May 16, 2009
It depends on whether the congregation is reform, conservative or orthodox. The conservative and orthodox bar mitzvahs tend to take time, and people come and go. The reform ceremonies tend to start on time and end exactly 1.5 hours later, much like a performance. For example, if the invitation time is 10:00 a.m., you will be getting your table card and eating by 11:45. If it is a conservative or orthodox service, most people enter between 10:00 and 10:30 a.m., and the service will last until at least 12:30. As for preparing your children for a long service, many parents bring snacks, books, non-intrusive toys, and most congregations are accustomed to a lot of kids, especially during a bar/bat mitzvah. Many of the congregations also offer childcare, your host will know what's best. Many parents take frequent breaks with the kids. I hope it is a joyous occasion.
L.S. answers from Los Angeles on May 16, 2009
If the Bar Mitzvah is at a Conservative Synagogue and the time on the invite is about 9 a.m., then it is okay to go an hour late, but if it is a Reform Temple and the time on the invite is about 10:30 a.m., most people show up on time and go to the entire thing. If you come late, you will miss the Bar Mitzvah child. If you do come late, just take a seat in the back. Rarely will anybody notice.
As the mother of "kids" who were Bar Mitzvahed, I cannot begin to tell you how hard these kids worked in order to perform. Nor can I tell you how nervous they are about getting up and reciting in Hebrew (and English) in front of hundreds of people. Remember that all this Hebrew learning took place while the child had school and homework. These kids are pretty amazing.