Today is December 3, 2023 -
Our sages taught that a parent is responsible for the actions of a child until the child reaches the age of 13 years and one day, at which point, the child reaches the age of legal majority in the Jewish community and assume full responsibility for observing the commandments and for all his/her deeds. At the age of 13 and a day, a boy becomes a Bar Mitzvah (which means the “age of responsibility for the commandments”) and a girl becomes Bat Mitzvah (some follow the tradition of considering a girl Bat Mitzvah at the age of 12 years and one day, on the basis of the Mishnah’s granting her responsibility for her own vows at that age).
From the age of 13 and a day onward, (a Jewish male) a Jew is counted as part of a minyan [the quorum required for public prayer], eligible to read Torah publicly, and obligated to fulfill the dictates of Jewish life.
Every (Jewish male) Jew becomes a Bar Mitzvah automatically. It is a change of legal status; it has nothing to do with how much an individual knows or has learned. No ceremony, certificate, or special service is required. However, it is a change of status that affects the entire community, since now there is an additional member to count in the minyan, and thus it has been customary to celebrate this milestone since the 1300’s, though celebrations have always been small and modest until this century.
The centerpiece of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebration is the child’s first aliyah: the first time the child is permitted to ascend the bima and recite the blessings over the Torah on behalf of the congregation. In most congregations, the child also chants part of the Torah portion and the Haftorah portion, as well. In many congregations, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah also leads some or all of the service, this too being a function reserved for adults.
Traditionally, after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah assumes his/her place in the congregation, signified by reciting the blessings over the Torah, the parents recite a brief blessings thanking God for releasing them for the responsibility for their child’s sins, since the child is now fully responsible before God for his/her own behavior. This ceremony would take place on the Shabbat, Monday, or Thursday following the child’s becoming 13 years and one day.
We at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun feel that one’s Jewish education does not end at becoming a Bar/Bat Mitzvah. Jewish education and most importantly the study of Torah is a continuing part of our daily life. Congregation B’nai Jeshurun encourages each B’nai Mitzvah to avail themselves of the educational opportunities afforded by CBJ.
It is important to note that all children meeting Hebrew School requirements and whose families are membgers in good standing are welcome and encouraged to study for a Bar/Bat Mitvah by contacting our office. Dates are arranged by consulting with the temple office.