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Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah Orthodox Traditions
Source: "My Bar Mitzvah" a website from Jacob Richman
Every child born of a Jewish mother or converted reaches maturity at the age of 12 for a girl and the age of 13 for a boy. At this occasion, the girl is known as a bat mitzvah and the boy as a bar mitzvah. The term refers to their new status as being subject to the privileges and obligations of fulfilling G-d’s commandments as prescribed in the Torah and as interpreted by Moses, the Prophets, the Sages and even the Rabbis, even in our generation.
Especially in our generation, where equality of the sexes is fiercely debated, the Jewish tradition of different obligations and privileges for boys and girls needs to be, not only delineated, but clearly explained so as to provide a meaningful approach to our religion as well as to our very lives.
Briefly, boys are obligated to fulfill all positive and negative commandments of the Torah and of the Sages and Rabbis. An example of a negative commandment would be the prohibition against eating pork whereas an example of a positive commandment would be the requirement to put on tefilin every day of the week (excepting Shabbat and Jewish holidays).
Girls above the age of bat mitzvah are obligated to observe all prohibitions of the Torah and to fulfill all positive commandments which do not have time dependencies. Therefore, Jewish women would be prohibited from eating pork but would not be required to observe the mitzvah of tefilin (since the commandment of tefilin has time restrictions when it may be fulfilled).
There are two important points that need to be made here. The primary reason for the difference between the sexes seems to be that Jewish women have been entrusted with the responsibility and the privilege of not only childbearing but also raising the future generations of Jews. This all-important responsibility supercedes commandments which a woman may not be able to fulfill because of her responsibility to tend to children and family.
Second, the exemption from observing mitzvot which are time dependent does not preclude a woman from observing them as time allows. There are indeed many righteous woman who observe as they can and whose prayers and observance are very dear to G-d. The Talmud lauds Beruriah who was a righteous woman who indeed fulfilled many mitzvot which were time dependent.
The most prominent mitzvot associated with bar mitzvah are talit and tefilin (although these mitzvot are neither more nor less important than other mitzvot).
The commandment to wear fringes (tzitzit) on the corners of a 4 cornered garment is only during the daylight hours (and, therefore, girls are exempt). Since we rarely wear 4 cornered garments (and the mitzvah would fall into disuse), it has become a custom to wear a talit katan (a small 4 cornered garment). There is an additional custom to wear the fringes (tzitzit) outside of our clothes so that the wearer fulfills the biblical commandment of U’Re’Item Oto (“and you shall see them).
In any case, it has become the custom for men to wear a talit (the large 4 cornered garment with fringes) draped over the wearer’s shoulders during prayers. By custom in Eastern Europe, young men (including bar mitzvahs) do not wear a talit until they are married. The custom of German Jewry was that all men above the age of bar mitzvah wore a talit during prayers. By all customs, anyone called to the torah or to participate in the ceremony of taking out and replacing the torah scroll in the ark wears a talit.
In these days of individuality, the style and design of a talit can vary from traditional white wool with black stripes to “the sky’s the limit” Agam creations. They add an element of color and individuality which should be welcomed. Likewise, women may wear a talit (but are not required to). Women’s participation in synagogue prayers is an evolving issue dependimg on the branch of Judaism, the synagogue, the rabbi, the congregants, the bat mitzvah, et al.
The other major mitzvah associated with bar mitzvah, tefilin, is mentioned in several places in the 5 Books of Moses and involves the placement of two small boxes containing biblical texts on the arm and forehead while reciting certain texts from the torah. It has become custom that Jewsih men recite the daily prayers while wearing tefilin, although the essence of the mitzvah is to recite the Shema. Tefilin are not worn on Shabbat and holidays because the tefilin are a sign of the relationship between G-d and the Jew whereas the holidays are also a sign of the relationship between G-d and the Jew. Since there is no need for a second sign, the tefilin are not used on Jewish holidays.
In order to instruct a young man in the procedure of putting on and praying with tefilin, it is customary to start before the age of thirteen so that by the time of the bar mitzvah it will be second nature. Usually, 30 days is considered sufficient to indoctrinate the bar mitzvah boy into the mitzvah of tefilin.
A beautiful custom and privilege is for the grandfather to purchase a set of tefilin for his grandson. If possible, it is also a very meaningful experience to visit the scribe who writes the tefilin to show the bar mitzvah what goes into tefilin (that it’s not just a “black box”) and the face of Jewish tradition (the scribe).
There are various blessings which need be said on fulfilling the mitzvot of talit and tefilin. Especially interesting is the issue of reciting the blessing of Shehecheyonu which is normally said the first time a mitzvah is performed or the first time a new garment is worn. Since the issue depends on custom, it is best to consult with a local rabbi or bar mitzvah teacher for the proper custom. For the courageous and bold, this subject makes for an interesting bar mitzvah speech.
A Collection of Greetings and Good Wishes
Bar Mitzvah Wishes
Congratulations on your Bar Mitzvah!
Mazel Tov. May the celebration of you Bar-Mitzvah bless your future with happiness!
Mazel Tov on your becoming a Bar Mitzvah.
May you always be a source of nachas to your family. May you grow in Torah and Mitzvot and fulfill the dreams that your grandparents had for you. From our hearts to yours
May the Torah bless you, guide you and inspire you today and always.
We are sure that this is the beginning of a great journey of Jewish Life.
On Your Bar Mitzvah:
Wishing you a hearty Mazel Tov on your special day when you are called up to read from the Torah!
For You On Your Bar Mitzvah:
May the light of knowledge guide your life with joy.
A Bar Mitzvah remembrance,
especially for you
with a wish for success
in all that you do.
Congratulations on your Bar Mitzvah.
May everything your heart desires on your Bar Mitzvah day come true,
And may the teachings of the torah enrich your life for you.
On this very special day in your life,
your family and friends are so very proud of you.
Bat Mitzvah Wishes
We're very proud of your accomplishments and we look forward to celebrating many simchas as you grow into adulthood.
Wishing a very special girl a very special day!
On the occasion of your Bat Mitzvah we wish you success, happiness, friendship. health and adventure.
May this special time in your life, be one that helps you grow into a young Jewish woman that follows in the footsteps of your parent's and grandparent's.
Mazal Tov to you on your Bat Mitzvah. May you have a long, healthy life full of happiness,
prosperity, and good things.
Bar and Bat Mitzvah Wishes
May this wonderful occasion be an inspiration to you throughout your life.
May the wisdom of the Torah inspire you throughout your life.
May this wonderful day begin a future filled with joy and blessings.
May your study of the laws and the rituals of Torah and Hebrew,
be a gift which continues to bring you blessings and joy throughout your life.
It is a such a pleasure to have been invited to your simcha.
May you be a source of much joy to your family allways. Wishing you a life filled with happiness and success.
May you go from strength to strength
“The way you conducted everything—you made the Bar Mitzvah!” Georgia Drucker, Lake City, SC
M I T Z V A H C E L E B R A T I O N S ' Bar/Bat Mitzvah productions come in all sizes.
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the grounds for everyone in attendance to be included in the fun
as we maintain the focus on the Bar/Bat Mitzvah Honoree!
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