In just a few months, I will be traveling back home (and to an extent back in time) to take part in the newest Jewish simchah, which is just starting to gain traction. It is called “yovel habimah,” or loosely translated, the jubilee or 50th anniversary of being called to the bimah on your bar or bat mitzvah.
I have lived in New Jersey for the last couple of decades, but I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and it is to that city and my hometown shul where I will be returning for this occasion.
The simchah should be celebrated with acts of chesed and tzedakah, like any Jewish holiday.
Although this new holiday, the yovel habimah, is something of a personal holiday, a few simple rules apply to all participants. Most of these rules widen this scope beyond the self.
1. Try to hold it on when the parsha that was read on your bar or bat mitzvah, 50 years ago, is being read again.
2. There should be no presents this time, but there’s no harm in asking your guests to contribute to your favorite Jewish charity, such as the Jewish National Fund or the Jewish Federation, in your name.
3. As a minimum, try to do at least the same thing you did on the bimah on your original day. For example , if you made a speech and chanted the haftarah, then try to at least do that. There’s extra kavod – honor – if you can exceed what you did before, but it’s not necessarily expected. And it’s no fair giving the same speech. Times have changed.
As to your speech, or d’var Torah – take the time to study the Torah or the Talmud (or both) and enjoy the process of formulating something new and interesting to say about your parsha or haftarah. In the long run, this extra time you spend studying benefits you too and strengthens your attachment to Judaism. This is one of the reasons for this new tradition.
4. Sponsor a nice kiddush after services. If either or both of your parents have died, then further the connection to yovel habimah by making it in the name of your parents, the people who sponsored you not only at your bar or bat mitzvah but probably, in a way, throughout your life. ( Even if one or both of your parents are still alive, you can still sponsor the kiddush in honor of their anniversary, birthday, etc.)
5. Don’t wait until you are 83 to do this. There are many reasons, including the greater chance to include more of your friends and loved ones. I recently, and unexpectedly, lost a lifelong friend at the young age of 62, so I know this to be a sadly true statement.
So there you have it. Make yovel habimah your new tradition, and one that benefits your community and the larger Jewish community at the same time. Its has all the ingredients that make a Jewish tradition worthwhile – Torah study, celebrating with old friends and family, and of course, last but never least, a nice nosh at the end.
Another simcha? Who can argue with that?