Literally Bar Mitzvah means “son of the commandment” and Bat Mitzvah means “daughter of the commandment.”
Jewish law does not require children to follow the commandments, though they are encouraged to do so. At the age of thirteen children become obligated to fulfill the mitzvot. Bar and Bat Mitzvah is not an event, rather it is a change in status. While we may perceive thirteen to be in the midst of childhood, Jewish law allows B’nai Mitzvah (plural of Bar or Bat Mitzvah) to count in a minyan (the minimum number of people necessary for some religious practices), to form binding contracts and to serve as a witness in religious courts.
A young person becomes Bar or Bat Mitzvah at their birthday; no ceremony is needed to confer adulthood. The celebration of Bar Mitzvah (the first Bat Mitzvah did not occur until 1922) is fairly recent in Jewish history, dating back only five centuries. To show a community that a young man was now legally an adult, he would be called to recite the blessing before and after the reading of the Torah, a mitzvah and privilege reserved for adults. Over time, the ceremony was expanded to include the reading of the Haftarah. Because certain Hebrew and liturgical skills were required for this, the connection between Bar Mitzvah and Jewish education arose.
Today it is the educational aspect, rather than reaching the age of majority, which is emphasized. At Temple Sinai B’nai Mitzvah demonstrate their ability to lead services, read Torah, participate in Tikkun Olam and social action projects as well as teach the community.
Bar or Bat Mitzvah is not the endpoint of Jewish Education. We are all obligated to continue the study of Torah and the fulfillment of righteous deeds throughout our lives. B’nai Mitzvah celebrate their change in status and honor their new responsibility not only on the day of their ceremony but through ongoing commitments to our tradition and community.
At the Friday evening service of your Shabbat, your family will be invited to light the Shabbat candles and your child will be invited to lead the congregation in the V’Ahavtah and in the Kiddush. At the Saturday morning service, your child will be leading the congregation in prayer, teaching and finally reciting the Torah and Haftarah portions.
Dates for Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration are set three years in advance. We require a minimum of three years of Jewish education, and family participation in a B’nai Mitzvah Retreat held 9 to 15 months prior. Individual study with the cantor and rabbis begins around five months prior. Attendance for B’nai Mitzvah is required at both Friday night and Saturday morning services.
There is a $1000 B’nai Mitzvah fee which covers training, materials, oneg sponsorship, and bimah flowers. We encourage you to consider using Temple Sinai for your Shabbat dinner and celebration following morning services.
B’NAI MITZVAH RESOURCES
This unique, step-by-step book and compact disc package will lead the novice through each step of learning how to chant Torah. Divided into 13 lessons and additional useful appendices and bibliography, the book allows the reader to ‘self-teach’ the important principles of Torah cantillation. The only pre-requisite for this course of learning is a basic ability to read Hebrew and a willingness to learn! Includes CD of corresponding recordings.
This guide is designed to help you make the most of your Jewish journey. Focusing on the values that are most important in our tradition, you will explore together what commitments you can make to bring these principles to life. Judaism has a lot of special wisdom to offer, but only you can make it real.
Use your iPod for your Bar and Bat Mitzvah preparation: Torah and Haftarah portions available for download as MP3 files.