Bar Mitzvah – The origins and history of the custom

The 13th birthday of an excellent Jewish boy in a festive ceremony of religious, halakhic and cultural significance. According to Jewish tradition, the birthday is used to mark the transition to adulthood. From that day on, the Jewish child is commanded to observe all religious commandments. Also, it should be noted that the age of acceptance of the commandments of Jewish youth is one year higher than the age which a girl reaches the yoke of the commandments according to Judaism.

The sources of the Bar Mitzvah ceremony distinguish between mitzvot intended for a Jew who is not yet a man and commandments that are the duties of an adult. Chazal interprets the term “man” as the time when a man brings two hairs onward when previously considered small and therefore exempt from all existing mitzvot. At the same time, according to Torah law, what makes a person liable for a mitzvah is to bring two hours of each age and therefore opinions are divided. Immediately after a Bar Mitzvah ceremony, a Jewish child can join a minyan and according to the Torah’s commandments, he does not take out others until he is certain that he brought two hairs. This means that the Torah does not rely on possession.

How does the custom manifest itself?

The two main ritual objects associated with the Bar Mitzvah ceremony are tefillin and tallit. These services are available in every Bar Mitzvah program and are given to the child even before he reaches the age of 13. The ceremony takes place at the age of 13 and one day and is divided into two. According to the history of the custom, the tefillin ceremony takes place only in the middle of the week and is usually paid with the days when a Torah scroll is issued: Monday and Thursday. Other days in the middle of the week in which the Torah is read, such as the dates on which Rosh Chodesh falls, are suitable for bringing the boy to the mitzvot.

The second part of the Bar Mitzvah ceremony is an aliyah to the Torah that takes place on Shabbat. It is customary to invite family and friends to this ceremony and to mark the arrival of the boy’s first Torah in a joyous way. There are communities in Judaism that hold only the second part of the ceremony, as opposed to most of the communities that observe the two parts. In addition, in only a few communities, only the first part is the laying of tefillin without the Torah being raised on the Sabbath.

What do you need to know about bar mitzvahs?

Every Jewish youth must understand the religious significance of the Bar Mitzvah ceremony and prepare for it. This ceremony marks not only the transition to maturity in theory, but also makes the boy an integral part of the Jewish tradition. The portion of the laying of the Tefillin, for example, is done in the middle of the week and allows the child to go up to the Torah and read his “Aliyah”. On the other hand, the second part was held on Saturday, in which the Jewish boy reads the passage to which he came. Preparation for the passage takes many weeks and can be done in front of the child’s father, grandfather or any other rabbi recruited for the holy mission. Among Ashkenazim and some of the Sephardi communities, the custom is that the boy recites the haftarah and the haftarah, when the father and other relatives also go up to the Torah.

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