What is a bar mitzvah? How to celebrate it?

What is a bar mitzvah? How to celebrate it?

What is a Bar Mitzvah?

A bar mitzvah is a rite of passage for your Jewish children who are starting on their journey to adulthood. The bar mitzvah is held at the age of 13 and often means that the child is now able to take part in public worship. This is also a sign that the child is now old enough to decide if they want to continue worshiping under Judaism or if they want to leave the faith.

Though most children at this age choose to stay with the faith, it is a sign from the parents and other adults in the child’s life that they acknowledge that the child is growing into adulthood and that they are able to make their own decisions. A bar mitzvah is held for boys, while a bat mitzvah is held for girls of the same age. This ceremony holds great cultural and religious significance and is often accompanied by a party to celebrate this turning point in the child’s life.

Understanding a Bar Mitzvah

why is bar mitzvah important


The story goes that the first bar mitzvah that was recorded was in 13th-century France. A man of the Jewish faith stated that he was no longer responsible for the actions of his 13-year-old son. He stated that the boy was of age and could handle his own affairs. Of course, this is just a story that has very little fact that can be used to back it up.

The religious aspects of the bar mitzvah that are so important in the ceremony today were first recorded in Poland in the 16th century. In original Jewish history, all people were allowed to take part in public worship and even in things like fasting and the Torah, but, as the world began to change, the rights of minors did as well.

In the Middle Ages, minors began to be restricted so that they were not able to be called up during service to read from the Torah until the age of 13, which is where the religious significance of the bar mitzvah came into play.

As the religious significance of the bar mitzvah began to emerge, it was also stated that anyone under the age of 13 could not lay tefillin or, phylacteries, which is the binding of the arm to discomfort to remind us of our mortality. This is a leather strap that is affixed to a small box that is often bound around the non-dominant arm of the worshiper and is worn for a short time during morning prayers.

Those under the age of 13 could also not be called to publicly read from the Torah, as we have already discussed. As the bar mitzvah grew in religious importance and the age of 13 became an important age, these two religious rights were afforded to the 13-year-old after their birthday and after their religious ceremony.

Religious Customs

The main custom that comes with a bar mitzvah is that at the age of 13 and after their bar mitzvah has passed, the individual is now a full-fledged member of the Jewish community as a whole. This means that they are also going to be held to the religious standards of the community as a whole.

Standards like a moral responsibility for your own actions, being eligible to read aloud from the Torah and lead or even participate in a Minyan, which is a meeting of people of the Jewish faith for public worship. According to Jewish law, those who have undergone their bar mitzvah are also able to marry and own personal property. Now, this is something that is a bit of a debate, as in many states you cannot marry at the age of 13 without parental consent, and in some states, the age of consent is even higher. However, according to Jewish law, you are old enough in the eyes of the Jewish governing body to both get married and possess property.

Still, another rite of passage that comes with a bar mitzvah is the duty to follow the 613 laws of the Torah. These laws govern nearly everything that you can think of, from how to act to how to be responsible for your own actions, and more. You are also going to be able to keep halakha or follow Jewish law or the literal translation of how to act.

These are all huge benchmarks in the life of a Jewish child who is transitioning into adulthood, and it is a ceremony that has huge cultural significance within the family unit and within the community as a whole.


How is a Bar Mitzvah Celebrated?

A bar mitzvah is first and foremost a religious ceremony that does need to be carried out in a particular manner to be able to be considered valid and to have all the requirements fulfilled. This means that it has a specific set of rules that have to be followed and a specific roadmap for the ceremony of sorts that will help to make sure that the ceremony goes the way that it should.

The ceremony is performed by a Rabbi who will perform the ceremony at a synagogue. The boy or girl is going to spend weeks and months before the ceremony even takes place preparing. They spend time studying, reading the Torah, going to worship, and more. They may even get help from their parents to prepare them for what they are going to go through and what is expected of them.

The next step is that boys will put on a tefillin for the first time during worship. At the bar mitzvah, the rabbi will give a talk about the boy, about what the bar mitzvah is all about, and about the dedication and promise to God that they were making. The rabbi will address the boy, his family, and those who have come to celebrate and witness with the family.

In some cases, the boy or girl may give a speech as well to those who are gathered to celebrate. Next, the father of the boy who is having the bar mitzvah will recite a prayer of thanks that thanks God for his son making it to maturity. The boy will then receive gifts, and the party can then begin. There is often a meal and dancing and joviality that follows.

When a boy is getting ready for his bar mitzvah, he will pick out a suit that helps to show he is beginning to enter adulthood. This is a very fun, emotional, and important ceremony that helps the young boy or girl transition from a child to an adult in the eyes of Jewish law. The ceremony usually takes place on a Saturday morning with the celebration taking place later that day.

Those who are in attendance might also give bar mitzvah toasts to celebrate with the boy and his family. This is similar to a Quinceañera for Latina girls when they reach the age and even a sweet sixteen for other children when they reach the age of 16.

When does a Bar Mitzvah Take Place?

where is bar mitzvah celebrated

A bar mitzvah takes place when the child reaches the age of 13. They will start preparing before they even get to the age of 13 and will start to get ready for their ceremony weeks in advance. The ceremony or the religious part of the bar mitzvah often takes place on the Saturday morning of the day that the celebration will take place as well. These ceremonies can also take place on specific days of the week; Monday or Thursday. The reason for this is that the Torah is publicly read on these days, and it makes it easy for those who might be traveling to make it to the ceremony.

It can also be held on Wednesday if the day is a Jewish holiday. In some cases, the ceremony and the celebration might have to take place on different days. In these cases, it might be that the family will have a small party for them or a small celebration on the day of the ceremony, then a larger celebration later in the week when more people can attend, and they can be a bit more carefree.

Where Does a Bar Mitzvah Take Place?

The ceremony portion of the bar mitzvah must take place at a synagogue. This means that the actual ceremony or the religious part of the ceremony is going to take place in a place of worship. In the case of the celebration, these are often somewhere else and may be at the home of the family, a venue that has been rented, and so on.

Components of a Bar Mitzvah Ceremony

There are some specific aspects of the ceremony that have to take place in order for the ceremony to be completed. The rabbi will first give a speech about the importance of the bar mitzvah and what the ceremony will entail. There is the reading of the Torah both by the rabbi and by the boy or girl who is doing the bar mitzvah.

The rabbi might also read or chant from the Haftarah. The rabbi may also deliver a Dvar Torah or a speech about the Torah and its importance and what will be read that day. The boy that is doing the bar mitzvah will be wearing a tefillin and a prayer shawl, and will also read from the Torah.

There is also a Kiddush cup or a cup that is filled with grape juice that is used for a blessing. There will also be prayers said over the ceremony and over the young man.

Bar Mitzvah Gift Etiquette

bar mitzvah gift etiquette

There is no requirement as to how much a gift must be worth. In most cases, if they are giving a monetary gift, they will give in increments of 18. 18 signifies life or chai in Jewish tradition. If you are not giving cash, it is important to make sure that the gift is tasteful. For the most part, however, giving money is the easiest way to give a gift for a bar mitzvah. Bar mitzvah gifts are often cash gifts, making gifting easy. 

Bar Mitzvah Toasts

bar mitzvah ceremony- bar mtizvah toast

These toasts are a huge part of any bar mitzvah ceremony. There is going to be a chance for the family and friends of those who are attending to tell the child how proud they are, to tell them their hopes for their future, and to truly show how happy they are to be there and to be part of the ceremony.

A toast is a way for those in attendance to offer prayers, blessings, and well wishes for the future and is a great way for those who have come to the bar mitzvah to show how much they care about the individual truly.


A bar mitzvah is a huge part of growing up as a Jewish individual. A bar mitzvah is a rite of passage and helps the family get ready for the child to move into adulthood. A bar mitzvah is a time for celebration, love, and joy and always will be. If you're interested in exploring and celebrating the traditions and moments surrounding a bar mitzvah, consider trying the Esstart's Bar Mitzvah slideshow. Check it out to witness the joyous moments and cultural richness associated with this milestone in a Jewish individual's life.



What is the purpose of a bar mitzvah?

A bar mitzvah is a rite of passage of a child from childhood to adulthood in the Jewish religion. This is an important ceremony that allows the family to celebrate the individual as they take on their adulthood.

What is a bar mitzvah for a girl?

The ceremony for a girl is called a bat mitzvah, and it is very similar to a bar mitzvah. It is a rite of passage for young girls from childhood to adulthood that signifies that the young woman is entering adulthood.

Why is a bar mitzvah at 13?

13 is the age at which a child in the Jewish faith is thought to be an adult and is thought to be responsible for their own actions.

Is a bar mitzvah a big deal?

A bar mitzvah is a very big deal for young people of the Jewish faith as well as their family and their community as a whole.

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