What is a Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah?

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In the Jewish religion, one of the most important days of a young boy or girl's life is the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah ceremony. Commonly known as the ascension into adulthood by a Jewish child, the ceremony is often a day of prayers, processions, and family gatherings. For a young Jewish boy or girl to become Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah means they have become “one to whom the commandments apply.” The act of a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah ceremony helps to solidify a Jewish child's place in Jewish society as they prepare for adulthood.

What is a Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah?

A Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah is not a part of Jewish law, but a reflection of it. When a Jewish boy reaches the age of 13, he is considered a “Bar Mitzvah” and when a Jewish girl reaches the age of 12, she is considered a “Bat Mitzvah.” It is a celebration of the liberation of the child into the realm of adult laws.

For as long as a Jewish child is under the ago of 12 for a girl, and 13 for a boy, they are considered under the care of their parents. Should they commit any wrongdoing, their parents are responsible for their actions. However, when the child reaches the Bar or Bat Mitzvah age, they are considered responsible in the eyes of Jewish Law for their deeds – in spirit, ethics, and morality.

Importance of Becoming a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah

When a Jewish child reaches maturity and has his/her Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, the parents celebrate because they have successfully raised their child into adulthood. The child celebrates his/her growth into adulthood.

The act itself is recognition of an individual’s place in Jewish society. Not only is all the attention placed on the subject of the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah, but the entire process allows the individual to display their maturity and adulthood through careful preparation and recitations. The process of preparing for a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah gives a young Jewish child the kind of spiritual guidance necessary to help with the growth into adulthood. Preparation for the Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah gives the child time to study who he/she is and how he/she fits into the world.

The Bar Mitzvah/Bat Mitzvah Ceremony

The Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah ceremony has been around since the Middle Ages and consists of reciting from the Five Books of Moses and Haftara before leading in the day’s discussion of the week's Torah portion. The actual ceremony varies often, with it being most often held on a Shabbat shortly after the birthday. Occasionally it is held on a Monday or Thursday services. For Jewish girls, Bat Mitzvah celebrations were not started until the 1920's, but have since become as common and accepted as the Bar Mitzvah ceremony.

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