What is BAR MITZVAH / BAT MITZVAH?
Is it important to observe BAR / BAT MITZVAH in life as a Messianic Jew?
BAR / BAT MITZVAH is something that has been on-going as a JEWISH CUSTOM / TRADITION for centuries. Even our Messiah YAHUSHUA took part in it as revealed in the HOLY BIBLICAL SCRIPTURES through a hint given.
It is actually a great ceremony to have in life. It is very significant just like One’s DAYS OF ACCEPTING YAH’S SALVATION and BAPTISM.
It might interest you to know that YAHUSHUA HA MASHIACH actually had a BAR MITZVAH Ceremony of some kind during his life time on earth in the human flesh. It most likely was not as elaborate as it would be today but he actually had one. Evidence for this is found in:
Luke 2:41-52 Tree of Life Version (TLV)
The Boy Astonishes Jerusalem Scholars
41 Now His parents were going every year to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. [a] 42 When He became twelve years old, they were going up according to festival custom. 43 As they headed home after completing the days, the boy Yeshua remained in Jerusalem, but His parents didn’t know. 44 Supposing He was in the caravan, they went a day’s journey, then began looking for Him among relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for Him.
46 After three days they found Him in the Temple, sitting in the center of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all those hearing Him were astonished at His understanding and His answers. 48 When His parents saw Yeshua, they were overwhelmed. And His mother said to Him, “Child, why did you do this to us? Look! Your father and I were searching for You frantically!”
49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for Me? Didn’t you know that I must be about the things of My Father?” 50 But they did not grasp the message He was telling them.
51 Then He went down with them to Natzeret and was obedient to them. But His mother treasured all these words in her heart. 52 And Yeshua kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
In the past, the training seemed to have started at the age of 12 for boys and 11 for girls.
Those children who were to be dedicated and committed to YAHUVEH/YAHWEH GOD’S Service by staying in the Temple from around 3 years old thereby being raised and looked after by the Priests (for example, Prophet Samuel, Mary the earthly mother of YAHUSHUA HA MASHIACH, etc), would actually start their BAR / BAT MITZVAH MITZVAH,Training much earlier than age 12 and 11. By the times of their BAR / BAT keeping in mind that only boys actually openly celebrated theirs in the Temple during a SHABBAT SERVICE while girls were given in marriage once an appropriate partner once they reached their BAT MITZVAH age, they were more well equipped than those who had not been staying in the Temple.
Today, boys and girls start preparing for their BAR /BAT MITZVAH at the age of 5.
When a boy turns 12, he starts to attend more serious classes until close to his 13th birthday. If his 13th birthday falls on SHABBAT (a.k.a Jewish Sabbath which is sun-down Friday to sun-down Saturday), then the BAR MITZVAH CEREMONY will occur on that day but if it does not fall on SHABBAT, then the BAR MITZVAH CEREMONY will be scheduled to take place during the SHABBAT SERVICE after his 13th birthday.
On the other, When a girl turns 11, he starts to attend more serious classes until close to her 12th birthday. If her 12th birthday falls on SHABBAT (a.k.a Jewish Sabbath which is sun-down Friday to sun-down Saturday), then the BAT MITZVAH CEREMONY will occur on that day but if it does not fall on SHABBAT, then the BAT MITZVAH CEREMONY will be scheduled to take place during the SHABBAT SERVICE after her 12th birthday.
It has been shown that girls tend to mature more quickly than boys so they are “BAT MITZVAHed” at the age of 12. Boys are given an extra year to grow up before they are “BAR MITZVAHed”.
As time goes on and YAHUVEH / YAHWEH’S Ministry Fellowship grows, we hope to do Messianic Bar & Bat Mitzvot Ceremonies for both boys and girls respectively in attempt to encourage YAHUVEH / YAHWEH GOD’S Children to learn HIS WORD!!!!
MORE INFORMATION on this TO BE ADDED AS TIME GOES ON….
Deuteronomy 6:4-9 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
(A:vi, S: v) 4 “Sh’ma, Yisra’el! Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai echad [Hear, Isra’el! Adonai our God, Adonai is one]; 5 and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. 6 These words, which I am ordering you today, are to be on your heart; 7 and you are to teach them carefully to your children. You are to talk about them when you sit at home, when you are traveling on the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them on your hand as a sign, put them at the front of a headband around your forehead, 9 and write them on the door-frames of your house and on your gates.
Mazal Tov (that is to say “Congratulations / Well done”)!
Bar mitzvah preparations can be both exciting and overwhelming.
Bar Mitzvah = the initiation ceremony of a Jewish boy who has reached the age of 13 and is regarded as ready to observe religious precepts and eligible to take part in public worship.
“BAR MITZVAH” literally means “SON OF THE COMMANDMENT / LAW.”
“BAT MITZVAH” literally means “DAUGHTER OF THE COMMANDMENT / LAW.
“Bar” is “son” in Aramaic, which is used to be the vernacular of the Jewish people. “Mitzvah” is “commandment” in both Hebrew and Aramaic.
“Bat” is daughter in Hebrew and Aramaic. (The Ashkenazic pronunciation is “bas”).
Technically, the term refers to the child who is coming of age, and it is strictly correct to refer to someone as “becoming a bar (or bat) mitzvah.”
However, the term is more commonly used to refer to the coming of age ceremony itself, and you are more likely to hear that someone is “having a Bar Mitzvah / Bat Mitzvah” or “invited to a Bar Mitzvah / Bat Mitzvah.”
So what does it mean to become a BAR MITZVAH / BAT MITZVAH?
Under Jewish Law, children are not obligated to observe the commandments, although they are encouraged to do so as much as possible to learn the obligations they will have as adults. At the age of “13 for boys” and “12 for girls,” children become obligated to observe the COMMANDMENTS.
The Bar Mitzvah ceremony formally, publicly marks the assumption of that obligation, along with the corresponding right to take part in leading religious services, to count in a minyan (the minimum number of people needed to perform certain parts of religious services), to form binding contracts, to testify before religious courts and to marry.
A Jewish boy or girl automatically becomes a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah respectively upon reaching the age of 13 years and a girl upon reaching the age of 12 years. No ceremony is needed to confer these rights and obligations. The popular Bar mitzvah ceremony is not required, and does not fulfill any commandment. However it is encouraged because YAHUVEH / YAHWEH GOD Almighty commands in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 to “… impress HIS LAW (TORAH) upon our children. The Bar and Bat Mitzvah is one way of doing it as it encourages the children to learn the TORAH and HAFTORAH plus the NEW COVENANT / NEW TESTAMENT at a very young age. YAHUVEH/YAHWEH GOD says in Proverbs that we should teach / show our children the right way to go from a young age and they will not depart from it as they grow older.
Proverbs 22:6 New King James Version (NKJV)
6 Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.
Psalm 119:11 New King James Version (NKJV)
11 Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
Psalm 119:105 King James Version (KJV)
105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
In its earliest and most basic form, a bar mitzvah is the celebrant’s first aliyah. During Shabbat services on a Saturday shortly after the child’s 13th or 12th birthday, or even the Monday or Thursday weekday services immediately after the child’s 13th birthday, the celebrant is called up to the TORAH to recite a blessing over the weekly reading.
- Today, it is common practice for the BAR MITZVAH celebrant to do much more than just say the blessing.
- It is most common for the celebrant to learn the entire HAF-TORAH Portion (usually PROPHETS or WRITINGS), including its traditional chant, and recite that.
- In some congregations, the celebrant reads the entire weekly TORAH Portion, or leads part of the service, or leads the congregation in certain important prayers.
- The celebrant is also generally required to make a speech, which traditionally begins with the phrase “today I am a man.”
- The father traditionally recites a blessing thanking YAHUVEH / YAHWEH GOD for removing the burden of being responsible for the son’s sins (because now the child is old enough to be held responsible for his own actions).
- In modern times, the religious service is followed by a reception that is often as elaborate as a wedding reception.
In Orthodox and Chasidic practice, women are not permitted to participate in religious services in these ways, so a BAT MITZVAH, if celebrated at all, is usually little more than a party. In other movements of Judaism (such as Liberal JUDAISM; Reform JUDAISM; MESSIANIC JUDAISM, etc), the girls do exactly the same thing as the boys.
It is important to note that a bar mitzvah / bat mitzvah is not the goal of a Jewish education, nor is it a graduation ceremony marking the end of a person’s Jewish education.
We are obligated to study TORAH throughout our lives. To emphasize this point, some rabbis require a Bar Mitzvah / Bat Mitzvah student to sign an agreement promising to continue Jewish education after the Bar Mitzvah / Bat Mitzvah.
Is 13 or 12 an Adult?
Many people mock the idea that a 12 or 13 year old child is an adult, claiming that it is an outdated notion based on the needs of an agricultural society. This criticism comes from a misunderstanding of the significance of becoming a bar mitzvah.
Bar mitzvah is not about being a full adult in every sense of the word, ready to marry, go out on your own, earn a living and raise children. It is said that while 13 is the proper age for fulfillment of the Commandments, 18 is the proper age for marriage and 20 is the proper age for earning a livelihood. Elsewhere, it is said that the proper age for marriage is said to be 16-24.
BAR MITZVAH is simply the age when a person is held responsible for his actions and minimally qualified to marry. If you compare this to secular law, you will find that it is not so very far from our modern notions of a child’s maturity. In Anglo-American common law, a child of the age of 14 is old enough to assume many of the responsibilities of an adult, including minimal criminal liability. Under United States law, 14 is the minimum age of employment for most occupations (though working hours are limited so as not to interfere with school). In many states, a fourteen year old can marry with parental consent. Children of any age are permitted to testify in court, and children over the age of 14 are permitted to have significant input into custody decisions in cases of divorce. Certainly, a 13-year-old child is capable of knowing the difference between right and wrong and of being held responsible for his actions, and that is all it really means to become a bar mitzvah.
Yes, gifts are commonly given. They are ordinarily given at the reception, not at the service itself. Please keep in mind that a bar mitzvah is incorporated into an ordinary Sabbath service, and many of the people present at the service may not be involved in the bar mitzvah.
The nature of the gift varies significantly depending on the community. At one time, the most common gifts were a nice pen set or a college savings bond (usually in multiples of $18, a number that is considered to be favorable in Jewish tradition, see: Hebrew Alphabet: Numerical Values). In many communities today, however, the gifts are the same sort that you would give any child for his 13th birthday. It is best to avoid religious gifts if you don’t know what you’re doing, but Jewish-themed gifts are not a bad idea. For example, you might want to give a book that is a biography of a Jewish person that the celebrant might admire. I hesitate to get into specifics, for fear that some poor celebrant might find himself with several copies of the same thing!
When in doubt, ask the parents.
THE ACTUAL BAR/BAT MITZVAH TRAINING, What is entailed?
Bar/bat mitzvah training is the culmination of the many years of Hebrew school that begin when the child enters first grade. Bar/bat mitzvah candidates generally should be able to sound out Hebrew texts and should be familiar with the basics of Jewish tradition and practice. There may be times when accommodations need to be made for children who are new to the congregation and have not attended Hebrew school, but still want to receive bar/bat mitzvah training. The goal of this training is not only to prepare the candidate for the big day, but for the candidate to have a better understanding of his/her identity as a Messianic Jewish person. Therefore, the process is just as important as the end result. The bar/bat mitzvah training typically begins at age 12 and consists of four parts:
- Torah and Haftarah with associated blessings. (Cantor or other insturctor)
- The candidate meets weekly to learn the Torah and Haftarah cantillation.
- Jewish Basics (Rabbi)
- The candidate meets weekly to learn and discuss
- Jewish History: The Big Picture by Gila Gevirtz, Behrman House
- Jewish Values: Jewish Heroes, Jewish Values by Barry L. Schwartz, Behrman House
- Jewish Heroes: Jewish Heroes, Jewish Values by Barry L. Schwartz, Behrman House
- The candidate meets weekly to learn and discuss
- Understanding the Torah and Haftarah portion and its meaning
- Writing the D’var Torah
- Mitzvah Project
The first part of bar/bat mitzvah training involves the student learning to chant Torah, the Haftarah, and the blessings. One of the best training tools available is a program called TropeTrainer http://www.kinnor.com/product-trope-trainer.html. TropeTrainer provides consistency, it allows for change of melodies to match what is used at your synagogue, it provides an audio visual program, and it is customizable and easy to set up. TropeTrainer comes in different packages, including a deluxe version with all of the Torah, Haftarah and High Holiday readings, a standard version without the High Holiday readings and individual parashiot which can be purchased on CD or as a download. All versions include tutorials that teach the trope melodies and how to apply them to the readings. If a congregation chooses to use TropeTrainer, the instructor should have at least the standard version and each student should have at least his or her parashah. If a family has more than one child who will be a bar/bat mitzvah candiate, or if the congregation wishes to encourage Torah reading beyond bar/bat mitzvah, it would be more cost-effective for the family to purchase the standard version as opposed to just the bar/bat mitzvah parashah. Also, using TropeTrainer would enable the teacher to learn right along with the student through the tutorials if there is no one in the congregation currently trained to teach this material.
Torah and Haftarah training will take approximately one year to complete. Usually the teacher works with the students about twice a week for 30 minutes to one hour depending on the student, with the student practicing what has been covered outside of instructional time. Less time in class may be more effective so that the students don’t become overwhelmed. The exact structure of your program will depend on what works best at your synagogue. It is recommended to have the student attend class at a regularly scheduled time so that it becomes routine for them. If there are multiple students preparing in the same year, teaching the students how to chant the Torah and Haftarah, as well as instruction on Jewish history and culture can be taught in a group setting. When students are ready to learn their specific portions and develop their speeches, it is necessary to do this on a one-on-one basis.
The second part of bar/bat mitzvah training is the cultural component, which helps the student to understand the “why” of what they are doing and the “how” of how do they fit into Jewish history. This is the part of the training that the Rabbi of the congregation completes with the student. They discuss Jewish history, Jewish values, and Jewish heroes.
The third part of bar/bat mitzvah preparation involves the Rabbi mentoring the candidate through weekly meetings. The Rabbi works with the student to understand their Torah and Haftarah portion and the Rabbi helps the student write their speech. The student’s parents are also involved when it comes to helping the student write the speech.
The fourth part of bar/bat mitzvah preparation involved the candidate choosing a mitzvah project to complete. The mitzvah project involves the student volunteering and giving back to others. The student should start by thinking about what issues they are interested in and where they would like to help out. An internet search can provide many good ideas and is also a great place to start when brainstorming about the mitzvah project. This service part of the bar/bat mitzvah training is a very meaningful and important part of the process.
Restoring the Way Ministries
Messianic Bar & Bar Mitzvah Program (pdf download)