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Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Last updated: 2003-08-22

Translated literally, Bar/Bat Mitzvah means "son" (bar) or "daughter" (bat) "of the Commandments." The Bar/Bat Mitzvah is recognized as the coming of age ceremony wherein boys and girls enter adulthood in the Jewish community. After their bar and bat mitzvah's, boys and girls can now be counted in a Minyan and are personally responsible for religious obligations. Traditionally, the ages for Bar/Bat Mitzvah are 13 for boys and 12 for girls (recognizing girls' faster maturation), although many people perform the Bat Mitzvah ceremony at age 13. The essence of the ceremony is to recognize the Bar/Bat Mitzvah's new status by calling him or her up for an Aliyah before the Torah to recite the blessings before the reading of the Torah portion. The ceremony is the first time that boys, and increasingly girls, don tefillin. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony usually takes place on the first Shabbat after the appropriate birthday. Traditionally, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is not only called to the Torah for an aliyah, but also to recite part of the Torah portion or the Haftorah for the week or to lead part or all of the prayer service. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony has become a rite of passage for many boys and girls, linking the event to the giving of gifts and a festive party after the ceremony to congratulate the Bar/Bat Mitzvah for their accomplishment. The primary symbols associated with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah are the tallit, which the Bar/Bat Mitzvah wears on the day of the ceremony, the kiddush cup, and candlesticks, all of which point to the celebrants' new personal responsibilities of observing the mitzvot. There is no written or oral command that a Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremony take place, or for that matter that the Bar/Bat Mitzvah even say the prayers before a Torah reading. In fact, a boy or girl becomes Bar/Bat Mitzvah whether they are in synagogue or at home in bed, just as long as they attain the proper age. The initiation of a child to the observance of the commandments is a modern day ritual. However, two commandments have been associated with the Bar/Bat Mitzvah - donning Tefillin and being called to the Torah for an Aliyah. Jewish Life Cycle is brought to you in association with (c)