10 Torah-‘inspired’ bar/bat mitzvah themes


The contemporary bar or bat mitzvah has become quite a production, but you can still create a spectacle that’s connected to substance. You can even let the Torah portion inspire you, so that your inappropriate excess is also informative and educational. (Well, sort of.)

Bereshit (Genesis 1:1-6:8)

You and your guests can frolic like the party animals of the first week of creation by experiencing that night-to-morning transition (“and then there was evening, and then there was morning”) to the beat of trance and house music at dawn with a Daybreaker dance party. Be sure to serve coffee instead of cocktails. 

Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9)

Siblings (in this case, Jacob and Esau) battle for a birthright. Through a persuasive costume, a humble protagonist becomes a hero, then a refugee, running into an uncertain future. Celebrate Toldot’s teen dystopian literature DNA by identifying reception tables as “Hunger Games” districts, based on guests’ professions and socio-economic status, or “Divergent” factions, based on their personalities. The former facilitates networking, the latter will identify how people attack the smorgasbord.

Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1)

If you’re always misspelling “dessert” and “desert,” this Exodus-themed party will cure you of that in no time. Bring your guests to an isolated, sandy area near Palm Springs, spend 40 minutes wandering through the desert — remember, no one is allowed to ask for directions — and then enter “The Promised Land” (an air-conditioned hotel lobby). For dessert, serve bundt cakes shaped like Mount Sinai. 

Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11-34:35)

The infamous golden calf was made of melted-down donated jewelry and valuables. It’s the perfect excuse to collect all the money and jewelry you receive, and trade it in for a ticket to Comic-Con to see your modern-day idols. 

Shemini (Leviticus 9:1-11:47)

This portion about keeping kosher can become a learning opportunity featuring Los Angeles’ finest food trucks. If you include a dairy truck and a meat truck, be sure to separate them with a giant challah mechitzah

Behar (Leviticus 25:1-26:2)

Behar starts with shemitah, the injunction to let the land rest every seventh year; it’s time to identify one annoying friend from your guest list and ask them to “give it a rest” this year. Alternately, forget the text and focus on the work, life and style of comedian and original co-host of “The View,Joy Behar. 

Chukat (Numbers 19:1-22:1)

The red heifer was a mystical animal with the power to purify the ritually impure and impurify the ritually pure. More important, it provides the perfect excuse to celebrate with a bucking, oscillating mechanical bull. (Let guests know, though, that by touching it they may have to leave the “camp”; be sure to provide coffee, snacks and Netflix to prevent excessive complaining.)

Balak (Numbers 22:2-25:9)

A king who sets out on a journey with a donkey that periodically speaks to him is obviously the narrative inspiration for “Shrek,” so take the whole gang to Universal Studios to experience meaning, Hollywood style. Start with Transformers: The Ride, clearly a metaphor for the angry transition to adolescence … but with alien robots.

Vaetchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11)

This portion celebrates the Israelites and their connections: “For what great nation has a god so close at hand as is the Lord whenever we call?” See? It’s all about who you know. So, who do you know? Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, Snoop Dogg, Beyonce, Madonna and Donald Trump have all appeared at bar and bat mitzvah celebrations — it never hurts to ask.

Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)

Full of more slaying, fleeing and siege-laying than an episode of “Game of Thrones,” this portion will make you want to embrace the best of the HBO series. Mark reception tables as “House Stark” and “House Lannister,” and suggest that instead of gifts, guests bring sworn oaths of loyalty. Extra points to blonde women who show up with dragon eggs (even if they’re Judith Leiber clutches).