The Bar Mitzvah ceremony

Bar Mitzvah Boy reading from TorahA bar mitzvah is one of the most important landmark occasions in one’s Jewish life. At the age of 13, the Bar Mitzvah boy is entered into the world of mitzvot, the world in which he assumes responsibility for himself as a member of the Jewish community. The word “bar” is the Aramaic word for “son of”, the word “Mitzvah” means “commandment” in both Hebrew and Aramaic.  Most families celebrate the Bar Mitzvah with a ceremony and then a party.  The party is fun – but the ceremony is really the essence of the Bar Mitzvah year.

When and what?

The Barmitzvah ceremony takes place usually on the Shabbat of the week of the Bar Mitzvah boy’s Hebrew birthday. The Bar Mitzvah boy is called up to read from the Torah, according to the weekly Torah reading (parashat hashavua). This is called an aliyah leTorah. He may read the whole of the parsha, or just a few lines. He will also say the blessings over, and perhaps reads from the Haftarah (the weekly reading from the Prophets).

And then what happens?!

After the bar mitzvah boy has finished reading his portion, it is customary for the congregation to sing in celebration, and in many communities candies are thrown in the synagogue. (Beware- sometimes they are thrown too hard!) Often the aliyah leTorah is followed by some sort of party or celebration, where the Bar Mitzvah boy will give a bar mitzvah speech or a Dvar Torah. In the Bar Mitzvah Dvar Torah, the boy might choose to talk about a topic in the weekly Torah reading, and discuss what the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah means to him.

Giving a speech or Dvar Torah

The parents of the Bar Mitzvah boy may also give a speech or a Dvar Torah. They might choose to discuss an issue from the parsha and it’s relevance to the occasion, or they may share with the bar mitzvah boy some thoughts or ideas that they would like the Bar Mitzvah boy to consider as he stands on the threshold of Jewish manhood.

The implications of being a Bar Mitzvah Boy

According to Jewish law, from the time of his bar mitzvah, the Jewish boy is entitled to lead the service in the synagogue, and he is counted as one of the ten men that make up a minyan. He also is bound to fulfill mitzvot that were considered not obligatory until now.