Poems for a Candle Lighting Ceremony

by Nicole Schmoll

Candle lighting ceremonies are a prominent feature of bar and bat mitzvahs -- events that celebrate a Jewish boy or girl (respectively) coming of age. Bar and bat mitzvahs are held when a boy turns 13 and a girl 12; they signify that the child is now old enough to be responsible for following the commandments of God as presented in the Torah. It is both a religious and festive time and is celebrated with a range of fanfare from very simple to very elaborate ways.

Candle Lighting Ceremony

The tradition of lighting candles has been incorporated into many bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies. The appropriate number of candles plus one (13 for girls, 14 for boys) are lit by members of the child’s family and community, including grandparents, other relatives, friends and immediate family. The child being celebrated lights the last candle. Candles are placed in a special candle stand that can be personalized with the child’s name, if desired. A poem is sometimes read before each candle is lit as a way of honoring the person who is lighting each candle.

Short and Sweet

Keep your poems short and sweet. Think of three or four qualities about each person who is lighting a candle for you at your bar or bat mitzvah. Write these things down and form them into a poem. Rhyme them if you want, or make them free-form, but just make sure the words are genuine and come from your heart. Look to poems others have written as a springboard for writing your own (see Resources).

Classic Poems

If you feel someone else has written a short poem that expresses your love or appreciation for a special family member or friend better than you can yourself, it’s okay to read a poem by another author during the candle lighting ceremony. Peruse poems from ancient and modern Jewish poets like Aviv Ekrony, Gregor Brand or Jayseth Guberman.

Hire a Poet

If you are too stressed to find a poem or write a poem yourself for your family members and special friends, you can hire someone to do it for you. There are many businesses that will help you complete this part of your bar or bat mitzvah with style and grace by writing poems for you about your relatives (see Resources). Or, read books of sample poems and change the names to fit your ceremony.

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