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Sample Explanation of Bar/Bat Mitzvah #2

Return to Bar/Bat Mitzvah Ideas and Primer for Interfaith Families


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.

Now, as a full member of the Jewish community,         will be able to be counted in a minyan, a quorum of 10, the minimum required for holding a prayer service or reading from the Torah.

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.

The Custom of Throwing Candy

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.

One of 54 sections of the Torah read, during Shabbat services, in order on a weekly basis throughout the year. Hebrew for "son of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish boys come of age at 13. When a boy comes of age, he is officially a bar mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bar mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The female equivalent is "bat mitzvah." A selection from the books of Prophets that is read following the weekly Torah portion. There is a Haftorah for each Torah portion. Hebrew for "going up," it refers to the honor of saying the blessing over the Torah reading. It can also refer to the act of immigrating to Israel. (e.g. "After falling in love with Jerusalem, Rachel and Christopher made aliyah.") Hebrew for "count," it refers to the quorum of ten Jewish adults (in some communities only men are counted; in others both men and women) required to hold a Torah service, recite some communal prayers, and the home-based recitation of the Kaddish. Minyan may also now refer to group that meets for prayer service, similar to a synagogue's congregation or a havurah. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them. The elevated area or platform in a synagogue, from which Torah is read. Worship service leaders, such as clergy, may lead services from the bimah as well.

Pamela Saeks lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati.

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