Bar & Bat Mitzvah
At the age of thirteen, a Jewish boy becomes a ‘Bar Mitzvah’ which means ‘son of the commandments’. At this age, in Jewish terms, boys become adults in respect of being obligated to live a Jewish life and thereby accept an additional set of responsibilities. This is why it is traditional to celebrate this milestone by a boy participating in a service in a way which reflects this new stage in his life.
Your rabbi will work together with you to help plan a Bar Mitzvah. We have set out some general information below as to how the process may proceed.
On the day of his thirteenth birthday (in the Hebrew calendar), the Bar Mitzvah should go to Shul that morning, along with his family, to wear his tefillin for the first time as an adult, rather than the time he has spent learning how to wear them.
If this occurs on either a Monday or Thursday, or another time when the Torah is read, the Bar Mitzvah will receive a call-up (aliyah) to the Torah. He may also choose to read from the Torah.
After the Bar Mitzvah completes his aliyah, his father recites a special blessing of thanks for his son making it to adulthood. This blessing is at the top of page 126 in the green edition of the Singer’s Siddur.
On the Shabbat of the main Bar Mitzvah ceremony, the boy will receive a call up to the Torah and often read a portion, if not all, of the Sedra (the Torah reading for that week from the Pentateuch) and the Maftir (an extra piece following the Sedra), as well as the Haftarah (a reading from the Prophets, a later part of the Hebrew Bible, connected to a theme in the Sedra). Your rabbi and Bar Mitzvah teacher will advise how much the Bar Mitzvah should read and how the service will proceed on that particular Shabbat.
As befits this rite of passage, it is traditional to have a festive meal to celebrate a Bar Mitzvah. This could range from a special Kiddush, to a meal at home or Shul on Shabbat, or another form of party.
A girl becomes ‘Bat Mitzvah’ (‘a daughter of the commandments’) when she reaches her 12th Hebrew birthday. In terms of Jewish law, girls become adults at this age in respect of being obligated to live a Jewish life and thereby accept an additional set of responsibilities.
In US communities, girls can chose either to have a Bat Mitzvah in the synagogue, at home or elsewhere, or to be part of Bat Chayil ceremony with other girls. A Bat Mitzvah ceremony is the most common of these and general information about this is set out below. To plan your own ceremony, please speak to your rabbi.
Girls prepare for their Bat Mitzvah by studying about some of the obligations they will take on once they reach twelve, such as Shabbat, Kashrut (laws of kosher food) and laws about showing kindness to others.
To celebrate this next stage of her life, it is customary for a girl to research and prepare a ‘D'var Torah’, a short speech in which she presents ideas about Jewish life and study. This is a gateway to the advanced Jewish studies options now available to her and the opportunities she has to be involved in Jewish experiences and social networks after her Bat Mitzvah.
You may wish to have a festive meal to celebrate a Bat Mitzvah. This could range from a special Kiddush, to a meal at home or Shul on Shabbat, or another form of party.