All you need to know about Bar Mitzvah

What does the phrase Bar Mitzvah mean?

Bar Mitzvah means “Son of Commandment” and refers to the fact that when a Jewish boy reaches the age of thirteen he becomes accountable for his actions in Jewish law. A Jewish boy automatically becomes Bar Mitzvah at the age of thirteen whether or not he celebrated or commemorated the occasion.

On a deeper level what does turning Bar Mitzvah mean?

According to Jewish mysticism the outer changes a boy’s body goes through around the age of thirteen reflects spiritual changes that his body is undergoing too. A person’s spiritual being has several levels of soul and at the age of thirteen a new level of soul comes into awareness. Moral awareness and sensitivity develops fully at this age which leads to the fact that this is therefore the age at which Jewish males can be held accountable for their actions.

How is the Bar Mitzvah celebrated in the Synagogue?

Every Saturday (the Jewish Sabbath) the Jewish Bible is read from- it is divided into 54 portions that are read in an annual cycle. Each weekly section is made up of seven sub-sections and each Saturday seven people are called up and honored with saying the special blessings before and after the reading of each section.

On the Shabbat (Jewish Sabbath\Saturday) following his Hebrew thirteenth birthday the young man is called up to the Torah and may read part of or all of the weekly reading as well as reciting the special blessings. Many have the custom to pelt the young man with candies afterwards.

There is usually a small lunch held afterwards in the young man’s honor which begins with a blessing over wine.

What about the Bar Mitzvah Reception?

Ideally a celebration is held on the day that the young man turns thirteen. Different communities have different practices regarding how they celebrate the Bar Mitzvah. Often the Bar Mitzvah boy will give a speech that is connected to the weekly Torah portion.

What is an appropriate Bar Mitzvah gift?

It is always worthwhile checking what is deemed appropriate as a Bar Mitzvah gift in the boy’s community before buying something so as not to buy something totally inappropriate. Some ideas for Bar Mitzvah gifts are as follows;

  • Judaica gifts are always a good idea seeing as a Bar Mitzvah celebrates a Jewish Tzedakah Box - Charity Boxcoming-of-age. Charity boxes are a lovely idea as are items related to festivals such as the Hanukkah Menorah. A prayer book or Jewish book may also be appreciated.
  • Gifts of money are traditionally given in multiples of eighteen due to the Hebrew word for life, “Chai” having a numerical value of eighteen.

Check out our great gift ideas for Bar Mitzvah gifts!

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