Bar Mitzvah

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What does Bar Mitzvah mean?

Bar Mitzvah means son of the Commandment. It refers to the child who is coming of age. It is correct to refer to someone as "becoming a bar mitzvah". Today the term is commonly used to describe the ceremony.

Bar Mitzvah Traditions

According to Jewish law children are not obligated to observe the commandments. They are encouraged to learn the obligations they will have as adults. At the age of 13 boys become obligated to follow the commandments. The bar mitzvah is a formal ceremony marking the assumption of obligations along with the right to take part in religious services, to count in minya, the smallest number of people allowed to perform in a ceremony, form binding contracts, testify before religious courts and marry.


Automatically at the age of 13 a boy becomes a bar mitzvah. No ceremony is needed, it does not fulfill or observe any commandment and is not necessary. The ceremony is a modern innovation. The elaborate ceremonies and receptions were unheard of a century ago. A boy will celebrate becoming a Bar Mitzvah (13th birthday) during the Shabbat service (Sabbath) after his birthday, in which he will be called to perform traditional rituals. The earliest form of the bar mitzvah is the of age child's first aliya or reading of the Torah, and is a ritual that remains as part of modern ceremonies. Along with the first aliya reading the boy will lead the congregation in prayer. Jewish boys also wear traditional clothing during the ceremony which include a yarmulke (a small skull cap), which is traditionally worn by all males attending the ceremony, and a tallit (prayer shawl) that is worn over his suit. Some families choose to have a reception following the service, which may be held at the Synagogues reception hall or at an outside venue. The reception may also include other Jewish traditions such as a Candle Lighting Ceremony in which the boy will honor special people in his life by lighting candles, traditionally 13 candles are lit one for each year, and some boys choose to light one more for good luck. Also, traditional dances may be included such as the the Hora, a traditional Jewish circle dance to the music of "Hava Nagila" in which the celebrant and his family members will be raised in a chair high above the guests.

Bar Mitzvah Gift Etiquette

Any gift that is appropriate to give to a 13-year-old boy should be acceptable to give at a bar mitzvah. Bar mitzvah gifts should not be given at the religious service. Not all members of the service may be part of the reception and it would be inappropriate to give a personal gift at a religious ceremony.


Bar Mitzvah Gifts Ideas

Bar mitzvah gifts from the family typically include Judaic gifts.

  • Star of David
  • Yarmulkes
  • Kiddish cup
  • Tallit
  • Prayer Book
  • Money- If gifting money as a bar mitzvah gift consider giving a multiple of $18. In Jewish numerology 18 is a number that represents good luck, because the number 18 in Hebrew letters spells the word "life".
  • Books of Religious or Educational value
  • Savings Bond
  • Magazine Subscriptions
  • Camera
  • Music
  • Video Games


Wikipedia- Bar and Bat Mitzvah

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