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Today, will assume the religious, spiritual and ethical responsibilities that come with being a Jewish adult by becoming a bar mitzvah. Translated, word for word, bar mitzvah means "son of the commandments." What the term means in Judaism is someone who is obligated to follow the commandments. This automatically occurs when a boy turns 13 and a girl turns 12, and while no special observance is needed, the practice of having a bar mitzvah ceremony became popular in the Middle Ages. Bat mitzvah ceremonies began occurring more recently, the first one recorded in North America in 1922. Today the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony has become an important and significant life cycle event for many Jewish boys and girls.
The centerpiece of today’s celebration will be when has his very first aliyah; the first time he will be permitted to ascend the bima and recite the blessings over the Torah on behalf of the congregation. He will also chant part of this week’s Torah portion and the Haftarah portion, as well.
While 's bar mitzvah marks a significant turning point in his life, it is the beginning of what we hope will be a lifelong commitment to Jewish living and learning.
In many congregations, it is customary to throw candy at the bar mitzvah boy when he has completed his Haftarah, to wish him a "sweet" life as he makes the transition to adulthood. Children are invited to come up to the bima to retrieve and eat the candy once it has been thrown. Even though the candy will be distributed in advance, please save it so it can be thrown at the conclusion of 's Haftarah.
The Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ideas and Primer for Interfaith Families is also available as a PDF document.