Today's Lavish Feasts Derive from Meals with Sacred Status

Although the bar/bat mitzvah meal is traditionally a seudat mitzvah--a meal with sacred status--extravagance has been rife for hundreds of years.

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Soon, the materialism that had become attached to bar mitzvah was decried. In 1938, the noted Orthodox rabbi, H. Pereira Mendes, insisted that the bar mitzvah "not be allowed to deteriorate into merely a day for perfunctory observance or for merry-making or gifts."

Twenty-six years later, the Central Conference of American Rabbis [the chief body of Reform rabbis] condemned the deterioration in the character of the bar mitzvah "affair." The extravagant consumption, the conspicuous waste, and the crudity of many of these affairs are rapidly becoming a public Jewish scandal. The lowering of standards as reflected in many bar mitzvah celebrations is in direct violation of the teaching of the Torah. The trend toward the abandonment of aesthetic standards can lead to the abandonment of ethical standards as well.

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Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin is the Senior Rabbi of The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, New York; the Co-chair of the Commission on Reform Jewish Outreach.