Bar/Bat Mitzvah

The words Bar (Bat) Mitzvah mean Son (Daughter) of the Commandment and refer to the boy (or girl) who is called for the first time to read from the Torah. Literally speaking, upon reaching the age of thirteen every Jewish child automatically becomes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah: one who is old enough to understand the mitzvot, the Torah's commandments, and to be responsible for their fulfillment. Among other things, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is now accountable for his/her actions; is eligible for an aliyah (being called to the Torah); can be counted as a member of a minyan, or quorum, for communal worship; can wear a tallit, or prayer shawl; and is responsible for following the teachings of the Torah, such as giving to tzedakah (charity), and fasting on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The Bar Mitzvah ceremony for boys is centuries old. The Bat Mitzvah ceremony for girls was introduced in the twentieth century as women began to take their place in the rituals of the synagogue. Both ceremonies celebrate a "rite of passage" in which the congregation welcomes the young person into the "adult" community and recognizes the fulfillment of this stage of the child's study of the Jewish religion.

To acknowledge that the young person has reached this milestone, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah is asked to lead the Congregation in prayer, chant or read portions of the Torah and Haftarah (writings of the prophets) and deliver a D'Var Torah, comments on the Scriptural reading.