What is Bar/Bat Mitzvah? a boy and a girl are A Bar or Bat Mitzvah is when recognized as having the same rights as an adult in Jewish tradition. Bar means “Son” and Bat means “Daughter” in Aramaic Mitzvah means “Commandment” in Hebrew Bar /Bat mitzvah means the son / daughter of Commandment.
Responsibilities as a Bar Mitzvah As a Bar mitzvah a boy is now morally and ethically responsible for his decisions and actions. He has the rights of a full grown man but is still not considered to be one himself. Bar mitzvah is simply the age when a person is held responsible for one’s actions and is minimally qualified to marry. It’s the moment in which the boy has become obligated to observe the Mizvot (commandments).
Commandment examples To know that God exists To honor the old and the wise To pray to God To give to charity according to one’s means To honor father and mother
Responsibilities as a Bar Mitzvah Cont’d It is now religiously compulsory for the person to wear the Tefilin The Tefilin are two small boxes, one worn around the head and the other worn around the arm; it contains pieces from the Torah which symbolises one’s connection with god; fasting on Yom Kippur and performing acts of tzedakah (charity) and other forms of worship are now expected from the celebrant.
How is it celebrated? Prior to a Bar / Bat Mitzvah the child works with a rabbi a couple of months and sometimes even years prior to the actual event in order to be prepared when called upon for the aliyah. The celebration of a Bar Mitzvah takes place on the first Torah service in a synagogue right after the boy’s 13th birthday Traditionally a bar mitzvah is the celebrants first aliyah; the celebrant is called upon to the Torah to recite a blessing over the weekly reading. The celebrant is usually required to make a speech as well, which traditionally begins with the phrase “today I am a man”.
How is it celebrated? Cont’d The celebrants father then makes a speech thanking god for releasing him of the burden of being responsible for the sin’s his son committed as he is now solely responsible for the decisions he makes. To fully confirm that the boy has indeed become a Bar Mitzvah he must be in the presence of at least ten men. Nowadays, the religious ceremony is usually followed by a reception in the evening or within the week after the religious ceremony.
Cont’d Other practices done throughout a Bar Mitzvah may include: Leading specific prayers during a Shabbat service Reading the haftarah (excerpts taken from the writings of Prophets) portion which is followed by the reading of the Torah during Shabbat The completion of a tzedekah project to raise money for charity organization of the Bar Mitzvah’s choice.
Bar Mitzvah’s & The Jewish culture To the Jewish culture, a Bar Mitzvah symbolizes the age where a boy is old enough to differentiate right from wrong. (e.g. when a boy reaches the age of 13). During the era where the Jewish religion was still being “developed”, boys at the ages of 13 were already considered to be fully grown men, physically as well as mentally as one’s life expectancy was much lower than that of today’s. Thus, around the Middle Ages where one’s life expectancy slowly began to increase, the thought of a young boy having to take upon the role of a fully grown man was decreasingly expected.
Bar Mitzvah’s & The Jewish culture Cont’d Bar mitzvah was now simply considered to be the age when a person was morally and ethically responsible for one’s decisions and actions; it’s the moment in which the person has become obligated to observe the commandments and apply them. Nowadays, it is considered to be the moment in which the person should have gained an awareness that he or she is transitioning into adulthood.
The Demonstration of Values Bar Mitzvah’s do not only include boys but girls as well, the only two sole differences are that it is not called a Bar Mitzvah but a Bat Mitzvah for a girl and that the ceremony is already celebrated when the girl has reached the age of 12 not 13. Bat Mitzvah’s only occurred in the 19th century. Even nowadays most Orthodox Jews do not allow women to have a Bat Mitzvah.
The Demonstration of Values Cont’d Bar/ Bat Mitzvah’s further display the importance that the Jewish culture lay’s on: Knowledge Learning Leadership Hard work Dedication Poise Community.
The Demonstration of Values It must be further added that one is not obligated to have a Bar / Bat Mitzvah to be considered a Jew, as well as being officially aware that one is in this specific rite of passage. However, it is still strongly encouraged that boys and girls do practice this religious ceremony as it implies the development of maturity on the person’s part as well as further emphasizes the importance of the traditions in the Jewish culture.
Anthropological Questions Do the differences between the Ashkenazim and Sephardim customs affect the Bar / Bat Mitzvah? Did Bar Mitzvah’s evolve and change over time? Does the Bar Mitzvah affected the child physically?
Sociological Questions Are there expectations that the child behave in a certain way after the ceremony? Does it become socially mandatory for the girl or boy to practice their religion? Are there consequences if the child does not practice its mitzvoth’s after the ceremony? Is there a distinct difference when putting value on a Bat Mitzvah as opposed to a Bar Mitzvah?
Psychological Questions Does the child feel more aware and responsible? Does the child feel more pressured after going through this religious ceremony? Do Orthodox Jewish women lie under the impression that they are of lesser value?
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