Jewish practice and customs have always adapted to societal and cultural changes. Our Jewish tradition continues to guide us today, and always, to serve God by living with righteousness and compassion to our fellow humans.
As Rabbi Andrea London has written, “This includes how we use language to talk about our Jewish faith. The commonly used term in the Jewish world for those who come of age is B’nai Mitzvah (plural), Bar Mitzvah (masculine singular), and Bat Mitzvah (feminine singular). These terms refer to those who are accepting responsibility for the sacred obligations of the Jewish people.”
This terminology allows us to use an inclusive term for anyone commemorating this Jewish lifecycle event — whether a Jewish teen or a Jewish adult. “Kabbalat Mitzvah” literally means the acceptance (kabbalah) of the sacred obligations (mitzvot) of the Jewish people. Kabbalat Mitzvah captures the essence of this liminal, transitional moment without reference to gender.
Rabbi London explains, “As societal and communal norms and conventions change, language adapts as well. Moreover, the words we use do not merely reflect our experiences but shape the way we understand the world. The term Kabbalat Mitzvah both reflects our broader understanding of gender and invites us to celebrate, embrace, and honor all of our young people as they come of age in the Jewish community.”