High atop the windswept Judean desert fortress, overlooking the healing waters of the Dead Sea, stands Masada, the symbol of Jewish resistance to foreign rule.
Never occupied by another nation, it stands as mute testimony to the unbroken chain of generations of Jewish men and women through the millennia.
The Ancient Synagogue and Genizah Room
The ancient synagogue at Masada revealed its sacred treasures to archaeologist Yigal Yadin in 1963. The holy artifacts had been put away, since they could not be discarded, in a special “genizah” room. One by one, they were uncovered during excavations and carefully honored as was their due. Fragments of sixteen scrolls were found at Masada, including two fragmented scrolls found in the Genizah room at the ancient synagogue.
One contained a portion of the book of Deuteronomy, and the second, a portion of the book of Ezekiel — parts of chapter 37, with the vision of the dry bones and the sticks of Yehudah and Yosef. Archaeologists have dated them to burial prior to the period of 73 CE, when the Romans at last breached the walls of Masada and laid waste to the site.
The Torah Scribe at Masada
Today the synagogue is vibrant once more with joyous prayer — and the sound of a scribe as he dips his quill into black ink prepared in the traditional manner to write on parchment soon to become a precious new Torah scroll.
Every child who comes to celebrate a Bar or Bat Mitzvah has the opportunity to add a letter in the Torah scroll being written by the Scribe at Masada, as he sits in the environmentally-controlled chamber within the ancient synagogue.
In the Courtyard of the Ancient Synagogue
Outside in the courtyard, the ancient stone benches that line the walls are filled with the family and friends of the youngster poised upon the threshold of Jewish adulthood.
Be it a boy or a girl, there are prayers and speeches, laughter and song, as well as special presentations of certificates of honor. Gifts and a special surprise drama by a professional actor are all part of the fun at both Bar and Bat Mitzvah in The Masada Experience.
Both boys and girls are offered the opportunity to add a letter in the holy Torah scroll being written by the Scribe of Masada.
Bar Mitzvah at Masada
For a boy, the ceremony of his first aliyah, “going up to the Torah,” centers on making the blessing for the reading of the Torah portion. Led by Rabbi Shimon Elharar, the Rabbi of Chabad of the Dead Sea, the new young Jewish man dons a pair of tefillin – phylacteries – with his father and other males participating in solemn brotherhood, and followed by joyous celebration. It is a uniquely male experience, one shared by Jewish men around the world, this entry into the world of Jewish manhood – and one that is especially moving when conducted at the spot where Jewish men chose to die and remain free.
Bat Mitzvah at Masada
For a girl, the ceremony focuses on her first official blessing over the separation of challah dough, as she grants the portion given to the Leviim and Kohanim, the priests and their assistants in the Holy Temple in millennia past. Jews throughout the world maintain the practice to this very day in anticipation of the time when the Third Temple will rise, and once more that portion will be tithed. There are also prayers and a Torah ceremony that includes a father’s special blessing for his daughter, speeches and a presentation of a certificate of honor. The experience concludes with her own fragrant, freshly baked challah ready to serve to all her guests!
Tour of Masada
After your child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah, take your family on a tour of the grand palace built by King Herod thousands of years ago. Although many people choose a tour by a private guide, it is also possible to use the automated self-tour program provided at the site. A video film and a spectacular multi-media museum featuring the artifacts uncovered in excavations atop the mountain, plus gift shops and restaurants where you can find refreshment before leaving the site, all await you at Masada.
Custom-designing your Masada Experience
The Masada Experience can be custom-designed to maximize your family’s pleasure. Would you like to have musicians? Shofars? Tribal drums? Klezmer players? Singers? Tell us in advance which elements you would like to include so we can help you make the most of your child’s life-changing event in an uplifting, spiritual and power-packing way.
Let The Experience begin… at Masada!
To make a reservation for your son or daughter’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah Masada Experience, call Rabbi Shimon Elharar at +972-54-777-0695, or send us an email. It’s the experience of a lifetime!