Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah (for Sept 19)
Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah are Jewish coming of age rituals. Bar is a Jewish Babylonian Aramaic word literally meaning ‘son’, while bat means ‘daughter’ in Hebrew, and mitzvah means ‘commandment’ or ‘law’. Thus bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah literally translate to “son of commandment” and “daughter of commandment”.
Today many non-Orthodox Jews celebrate a girl’s bat mitzvah in the same way as a boy’s bar mitzvah. The age of b’nai mitzvah roughly coincides with physical puberty. The bar or bat mitzvah ceremony is usually held on the first Shabbat after a boy’s thirteenth and a girl’s twelfth birthday, following an intensive period of study.
According to Jewish law, when Jewish boys become 13 years old, they become accountable for their actions and become a bar mitzvah, and are called to read the Torah in the synagogue. The boy is now considered a man in the eyes of the Jewish religion and obligated to fulfill the commandments of the Torah. A girl becomes a bat mitzvah at the age of 12 according to Orthodox and Conservative Jews, and at the age of 13 according to Reform Jews.
Prior to reaching bar mitzvah, the child’s parents hold the responsibility for the child’s actions. After this age, the boys and girls bear their own responsibility for Jewish ritual law, tradition, and ethics, and are able to participate in all areas of Jewish community life. In addition to being considered accountable for their actions from a religious perspective, b’nai mitzvah may be counted towards a minyan (prayer quorum) and may lead prayer and other religious services in the family and the community.