Your child’s big day is around the corner…
I bet you’re excited… it’s a big day!
But hang on a sec…
Are you excited because it’s your child’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah?
Or are you excited (read: terrified) because you’d like to give your son/daughter a nice Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech, but you have NO IDEA what to say (or where to start)?
I’m about to show you exactly how to write a terrific Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech – step by step (without putting your guests to sleep in the process).
Note: This guide is useful for any family member looking to right a speech for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah: parents, grandparents, siblings, friends… you name it.
Note 2: I also wrote a similar guide that helps Bnai Mitzvah write their speech. Feel free to send it to them if they could use some help.
Table of Contents
Creating the Speech Outline
Got your pen and paper ready?
Ready to write a speech that’ll make Stephen King’s novels look like children’s books?
Hold your horses there, tiger!
Before you start burning the midnight oil, you might want to start off with a plan first.
After all… you wouldn’t build a house without drawing a blueprint first, now would you?
So why would you start writing without an outline?
A speech outline gives you structure. And it’s that structure that can save you hours of staring at a blank piece of paper trying to figure out what to write (or say).
Been there, done that, don’t recommendat.
Now… my spider-senses tell me that you’re wondering: “OK, genius… how do I create an outline?”
Thankfully, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Here’s an outline you can use to write your Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech:
Note: I included a bunch of Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech examples at the end of this article that follows this precise outline.
- Speech Introduction:
- Thank everyone for coming. Mention a few names you’d like to personally thank (like your family who traveled from a distance to celebrate with you, your in-laws if you want them to finally like you, or your boss if you’d like to improve your odds of a promotion)
- Start your speech with a hook to capture your guest’s attention (they’re probably on their phones)
- Optional: Slip in a joke if it makes sense (like I just did above).
- Speech body:
- Tell a personal story that relates to your son/daughter. Focus your story on your son/daughter’s qualities and likes.
- Optional: Throw a joke or two in the middle.
- Optional: Include a Dvar Torah
- Speech Wrap Up:
- Bless your son/daughter. Tell them how much you love them, and how much you’re proud of them.
- Wish everyone a pleasant evening
- Optional: Wrap it up with another joke for good measure
Now that we’ve got a rough outline – time to think of what we actually want to say.
Brainstorming: Collecting Notes, Ideas & Stories (and Jokes)
This is the fun part…
This is where you brainstorm & collect everything you’d like to say to your son/daughter on their special day:
- Personal stories & anecdotes from the past
- Lessons, analogies, and metaphors
- Blessings & wishes
Let the creative juices flow.
Feeling stuck? Here are a few places you can draw inspiration from:
- Start with listing “bad” ideas. Good ideas often come from bad ones.
- Go for long walks & take long showers. Cliché, but it works.
- Ask your spouse for ideas. Who else knows your son/daughter (perhaps even better than you do)? Possibly your spouse…
- Ask your son/daughter. Who knows your son/daughter better than you AND your spouse? Yep – your son/daughter. Since it’s their Bar/Bat Mitzvah and you’re about to talk about them, who better to ask than the actual man/woman of the hour?
- See what other parents wrote for their children’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Use the example speeches I included below for some inspiration.
Got some notes & ideas written down?
Awesome… now, lock yourself in your office… because you’re about to start writing!
Writing the Speech
3…2…1 – start writing!
Now that you collected a bunch of stories, ideas, and jokes – it’s time to put them all together and start writing your speech.
Here are a couple of writing tips you can use to write your Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech:
1. Write like you speak
Remember English class?
Good… now throw the textbook out the window and do the EXACT opposite.
Our natural tendency is to try and impress others with our fancy writing, trying to make Shakespeare proud. As a result – you end up walking to the fridge every 2 minutes to check “what’s new” (or worse – you open Facebook) = a.k.a writer’s block.
But here’s the thing…
When you give a speech – you shouldn’t sound like an English professor… you should sound like YOU.
Counter-intuitive, ain’t it?
Could you imagine people listening to your speech, and halfway through wondering: “who the hell does this guy think he is?!”
Bottom line: Write like you speak, Bevakasha…
2. Don’t write and edit at the same time.
When you write – write. When you edit – edit.
Writing and editing are 2 different mental processes. Don’t make the classic error of mixing the two of them together – you’ll just slow yourself down and drive yourself crazy.
3. Start with writing the body, then write the intro & wrap up
This is the 80/20 rule in practice: the body of your speech will be around 80% of your speech, so you better start there…
Once you’ve got the body written down:
- You can write your speech intro and smoothly transition into the speech body.
- You can write your speech wrap-up and smoothly transition from the speech body.
It’s like making a tuna sandwich: first, you prepare the tuna, then you wrap it up with the bread.
4. Don’t be boring!
Make your speech short & sweet, not long & tedious. People have short attention spans. If you start rambling endlessly you’ll notice people start to yawn and reach for their phones (if it’s not Shabbat).
Tip: Check out the “Practice, Practice, Practice” section below to make sure you don’t turn it into a snooze-fest.
Take Jacob Green, a Jewish young man from Florida. His little sister recently celebrated her Bat Mitzvah – and his father took the opportunity to play a few jokes on Jacob and his siblings:
“Rachel, I think you know this, but you’re the favorite. And you aren’t just our favorite, sometimes I think you’re everyone’s favorite. Where ever we go, the beach the supermarket a hotel, when we leave there always seems to be saying ‘bye Rachel,’ or ‘thanks for playing Rachel!’”
But does that mean you have to be a stand-up comedian to not be boring?
Heck no! You can give a terrific speech without forcing your awkward jokes on people.
5. Don’t force jokes if they’re not funny!
Don’t force the joke – spare us the “a Jew and a Muslim walk into a bar” kind of jokes. The joke should either be relevant to what you’re saying or not be said at all.
Embarrassing your son/daughter on their Bar/Bat Mitzvah is a big no-no. You’ll have to live with the consequences (and probably make it up to them with one hell of a Bar Mitzvah gift).
Editing the Speech
Hooray! You’ve got your first draft written down. Now, it’s time to edit it.
This is where you turn a blurb of text into something worth reading (or in this case, something worth listening to).
Many people don’t know this, but the real magic happens in the editing, not in the writing.
There’s a reason why newspapers and publications have both writers and editors on their payroll… And can’t succeed without the other.
Now, I don’t expect you to hire an editor to write a speech. Unfortunately (or fortunately) you’ll be the writer, editor, and in this case – also the speaker.
Don’t worry, I like keeping things simple.
In fact, to edit your speech effectively – all you have to do is remember RRRR (the 4 R’s):
- Remove: Get rid of words or sentences you don’t need
- Rewrite: Rewrite complicated sentences to make it sound natural. Remember – this is a speech, not a college essay. Leave the complicated words out.
- Reorder: If a sentence breaks the natural flow of the speech, try moving it someplace else
- Repeat: Repeat until you’re satisfied.
Finally, proofread your speech to make sure it sounds good. Notice I highlighted the “read” part. This is a speech you’ll actually read out loud, not just submit to the local newspaper. Make sure it reads properly.
Tip: Don’t be a perfectionist about it. Your speech should sound authentic, not like a 1980’s radio news report.
Practice, Practice, Practice
“We don't rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” ― Archilochos.Click To Tweet
Repetition breeds skill.
Repetition breeds skill.
Repetition breeds skill.
No, I didn’t hit CTRL+C and CTRL+V 3 times by accident. This was on purpose…
To illustrate how crucial it is to practice your speech and repeat it several times.
Here are a couple of speaking tips to keep in mind while you practice:
1. Time yourself
Measure how long the speech takes.
Ideally, you’d want to keep it somewhere between 3-10 minutes. Otherwise, your guests will get impatient and bored (otherwise you’ll have to make it up to them with some pretty cool Bar/Bat Mitzvah souvenirs)
If it’s too long, edit your speech and try to make it shorter and snappier (remember RRRR).
Your mirror is your friend. Practice giving your speech several times in front of the mirror, until it sounds “right”.
Tip: Your spouse is your 2nd best friend (that sounded weird). Read your speech to your spouse to give you some cold-hearted truth.
2. Look at your son/daughter and your guests, not at your notes
If you haven’t practiced your speech properly – you’ll constantly go back and forth between your son/daughter, your guests and your notes.
That’s why practicing your speech is so important.
You’ll want to memorize your speech to the point where you (almost) know your speech by heart.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have your notes with you when you speak. But use it as a helper, not as a guide.
3. Speak with emotion
You’re probably already emotional, so that should be easy.
Just don’t be afraid to show it.
Note: Yes, I’m talking to you dads out there who don’t like to show their feelings.
4. Match your body language and tone of voice to the words you’re saying
People overestimate the importance of the words and underestimate the importance of tone and body language.
A famous study from 1967 (!) showed that words are responsible for only 7% of personal communication (feelings and attitudes), while body language and tone of voice are responsible for 55% and 38% respectively.
- If you’re sharing a personal story – speak with emotion.
- If you’re telling a joke, tell it with a smile on your face.
- If you’re sharing a sad story, speak gently (and wipe that smile off your face).
In other words: don’t be a robot.
5. Be yourself
Be authentic. Don’t try to sound like someone you’re not.
Say what you feel and feel what you say.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Speech Examples
Bar Mitzvah Speech Example #1:
This Jewish mother from LA shared the unique speech she gave her son, a computer gamer, for his Bar Mitzvah.
Take Notes: Notice how she uses a combination of stories, analogies, metaphors (from the Gaming world, of all places!).
Hello everyone and thank you so much for joining us for Michael’s Bar Mitzvah.
Now, I know for most of you, this isn’t your first time at the rodeo.
But for myself, my husband, and my extended family, Michael is the first Bar Mitzvah in decades!
I also know that many of the friends that have joined us here today have never been to a Bar Mitzvah or if they have they might not realize the whole tradition of the Bar Mitzvah ceremony. So I thought I would spend a little bit of time explaining what a Bar Mitzvah is, why we do it, what we are celebrating, and so on and so forth.
In essence, a Bar Mitzvah is the beginning of a child’s spiritual maturity. When boys are younger than age 13, and 12 for girls because everyone knows girls are more mature than boys, they are unaware of their spiritual selves. But after 12 and 13, a child, now a very young adult, can begin to form their morals, their values, and their spiritual beliefs.
Michael has been studying Hebrew and the Torah for pretty much his entire life. He actually had to memorize his Torah portion in order to be able to read it up here at the bimah!
As someone who has a terrible time remembering things, I find this feat to be extraordinary. But honestly, according to his father and I, Michael pretty much HAD to have a Bar Mitzvah. Everything in his life has been more or less controlled by myself, his father and to a certain extent his teachers and rabbis. Up until now, Michael’s life hasn’t really been fully his.
But now Michael is 13! He is leaving behind the era of being a child completely run by adults and is beginning to be able to spread his wings.
Like me, Michael was born wanting to control his life more than either his father or I really wanted him to. And now, finally Michael, you can begin to take control of your life starting with figuring out what kind of man you want to be.
The foundation of your morality has already been built through 13 years of teaching from your parents and from learning about Judaism. Now is the time you will learn who you really want to be and what kind of man you will become. But the good news is you don’t have to do this alone.
Even though you are now free to make more decisions on your own, you still have us, your family and your community to be here to help you when you get stuck. You have a wealth of love and knowledge sitting right here, celebrating you and your life!
The beauty of a Bar Mitzvah is it is the ending of one part of your life – being a child – and the beginning of the next chapter – learning how to truly be a good adult.
- Instead of just sitting in class and learning, you are now able to teach those who are younger than you.
- Instead of memorizing lines from your parsha, you can now begin to understand the meaning behind them and start to question things.
You are someone that has always needed to know what the boundaries are in any given task. You are now free to create some of those boundaries yourself instead of waiting for someone to tell you what they are!
Turning 13 means you’ll be able to fulfill more Mitzvot, such as the wearing of Tefillin…
The purpose of the Tefillin is to, besides becoming closer to G-d, connect the heart and the mind together.
As they say in the Spider-Man comics, “with great power comes great responsibility”.
Michael, you’re now about to begin a new era in your progression as a man.
The Tefillin isn’t another thing you have to do because you are Jewish and your father and I said so, it is a want to. You can choose to put it on, or not. But as someone who was born already possessing the abilities the Tefillin will help you acquire, let me tell you – it is worth it.
Frankly, I believe you, Michael, have already begun to develop as a man. Your growth this past year in school has been absolutely remarkable. Your father and I did our best to figure out how we could best support you as an individual, but ultimately the hard work was entirely up to you. And you did it!
Watching you blossom this year has been one of the most rewarding things I have seen in my life and I am honored that Hashem has blessed me with such a wonderful son.
Now I have a story for you:
This was back in the early sixties when the first mainframe computers were being introduced into business. Professor Abraham Polichenco, a pioneer in computer technology, visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe and posed a question to him:
“I know that everything that exists in the world, even something that we discover later in history, has its source somewhere in the Torah. So, where are there computers in the Torah?”
Without hesitation, the Rebbe answered, “Tefillin.” The professor was perplexed.
“What’s new about a computer?” the Rebbe continued. “You walk into a room and you see many familiar machines: A typewriter, a large tape recorder, a television set, a hole puncher, a calculator. What is new?
“But under the floor, cables connect all these machines so they work as one.”
The professor nodded enthusiastically. He hadn’t realized it before, but yes, this is all that a computer is: A synthesis of media and processing devices.
“Now look at your own self. You have a brain. It is in one world. Your heart is in another. And your hands often end up involved in something completely foreign to both of them. Three diverse machines.
“So you put on Tefillin. First thing in the day, you connect your head, your heart and your hand with these leather cables — all to work as one with one intent. And then when you go out to meet the world, all your actions find harmony in a single coordinated purpose.”
Michael, I know how much you adore computers and gaming. So, I am going to take the analogy of computers and Judaism a little bit further than the Rebbe did. I believe one could make an argument, that being a Jew is the ultimate in computer gaming!
You laugh but hear me out.
What is it about playing games on the computer that makes you so passionate about it? I think one of the reasons is the feeling of community you get when you’re working with your friends on a team to beat another set of virtual characters.
Judaism has the same thing! When we celebrate Shabbos every Friday night and make the prayers on the candles and bread and wine, we’re connecting to every other Jewish person on the earth who are also doing the exact same thing we are doing.
Do you remember the scene in Harry Potter when all of the good guys raise their hands up towards the sky and the light blows away the evilness of Voldemort?
That is kind of what I think happens when we light the candles on Friday night. The spirit of every Jew working together will be what brings Mashiach, right?
Another thing you enjoy playing video games is the challenge of learning how to win at the various levels. One more level mom! Turns out Judaism has the same thing!
The Zohar, otherwise known as the Jewish book of mysticism explains:
Viewed from the point of view of man’s service to G‑d, the levels of the soul may be described as five ascending levels of awareness of, and communion with, G‑d. They are called (in ascending order) Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, and Yechida. Regarding these levels of soul, the Zohar states that when a person is born, he’s given a Nefesh from the world of Asiya, the lowest world, representing the greatest concealment of G‑d.
If through his divine service and proper action, he makes himself worthy, he is then given Ruach on the plane of Yetzira. With greater effort, he can earn the revelation of Neshama, paralleling the world of Beriya. If he purifies himself greatly, he may be able to attain the level of Chaya paralleling Atzilut, and even Yechida — the G‑d consciousness of the level of Adam Kadmon and beyond.
Look, I barely understand what any of that means! But I DO know that if you continue to study and learn Torah, continue to be a good person and choose the right thing to do, you will eventually “level up” with your commitment and connection to G-D. And THAT is really something!
Michael, when you “win” a computer game, that gives you a strong sense of accomplishment. You DID something! You WON! Judaism can do the same thing for you. When you choose to eat a kosher meal, you are automatically winning! When you put on tefillin, you are winning! When you come to service and daven, you are winning! There are so many ways, 613 to be exact, that you can “win” at
Judaism! Now THAT is a game worth playing!
So, as I have just explained to you, Torah is really the ultimate “game”. One that I think you excel at playing. So today, on your Bar Mitzvah, I hope you understand that this is the ending of your have-to’s and the beginning of your want-to’s.
And if you choose to continue with your Jewish learning, there is no telling what you can accomplish.
Michael, I love you with all of my heart. I am so proud of you and may you be blessed with health and happiness for all the days of your life!
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Speech Example #2: Short, Sweet & Funny
This is a speech by Ronny, a father from Hartford, CT, gave for his son’s Bar Mitzvah.
Take Notes: Notice the witty jokes and the length of this speech: short, sweet and to the point.
Thank you, everyone, for joining us tonight in celebrating our beloved son’s Bar Mitzvah.
If you don’t mind, I’d like to say a few words to Yosef…
My dear son Yosef,
You’re celebrating your coming of age today… and because of that, look what happened – you forced your family from all over the world to come to your Bar Mitzvah.
But don’t worry, they have nothing to complain about. You’re our one and only son.
Could you imagine if they had to fly over and over again?
Yosef, I don’t know if you know how proud I am of you and everything you’re doing:
For those of you who don’t know: Yosef is at the top of his class, at the top of his Judo team and pretty much everywhere else.
Everyone knows that and sees that… But what no one sees is the hard work you put into everything do.
You’re a very talented young man… but talent can only get you so far in life.
It’s the talent, combined with your hard work that makes you so successful.
Sometimes your mother and I argue who you got it from (clearly, it came from me).
You inspire us and everyone around you to do dream big and do greater things.
And let me tell you…
In fact, I PROMISE you: if you keep working hard throughout your life, you’ll achieve amazing things… in life, in Torah, in Judo, everywhere…
Hard work – works.
I’m so proud of everything you’ve accomplished, and everything you’ll accomplish in the future.
I’m proud to be your father. Or, rather, I’m proud that you are my son…
I’ll always be in your corner and be your biggest cheerleader (I might even dance like one and embarrass you in front of your friends if I drink too much tonight)
Your mother and I love you very much… Forever and always!
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Speech Example #3: The “Non-speech” Speech
Who said you have to give a speech, to begin with?
Miriam Snyder, a cantorial soloist from LA, gave me an interesting example from her son’s Bar Mitzvah:
You don’t have to make your guests cry on purpose… but hey, if you’re America’s next rising star (or whichever country you’re from) – then go hit the stage!
More Bar/Bat Mitzvah Speech Examples
Take a look at this Bat Mitzvah speech given by famous TV & game show producer, Bob Boden (The Chase, Jeopardy & others):
Take Notes: He uses his TV persona in his daughter’s blessing. Short, witty and emotional all at the same time.
Here’s a good example of a father telling the emotional story of his Bar Mitzvah being born. Notice the authenticity in his story, and the way he masterfully uses his tone of voice with the words he’s saying.
Take Notes: Storytelling at its best: authentic, engaging and entertaining.
See… that wasn’t so bad, was it?
Writing a great Bar/Bat Mitzvah speech is easy if you have the right system.
Simply follow the steps in this article, and you’ll have an awesome speech ready in no time.
Note: It will definitely take you less time than it took me to write this article 🙂
And after you’re done writing your speech – I’d love for you to share it in the comments below… I’ll be more than happy to add it to the article!
How does that sound? 🙂