“Bar Mitzvah” literally means “son of the commandment.” “Bar” is “son” in Aramaic, which 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”).
The Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah of your child or grandchild is a very special event in your life, and in the lives of the whole family, especially for the child who is celebrating this wonderful and meaningful occasion that is so important in the life of a young Jew.
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 (12 for girls), children become obligated to observe the commandments. The Bar Mitzvah ceremony formally 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 automatically becomes a Bar Mitzvah upon reaching the age of 13 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. It is a relatively modern innovation, not mentioned in the Talmud, and the elaborate ceremonies and receptions that are commonplace today were unheard of as recently as a century ago.
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 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 haftarah portion, 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 recites a blessing thanking G-d for removing the burden of being responsible for the son’s sins.
In modern times, the religious service is followed by a reception that is often as elaborate as a wedding reception.
Celebrate a Bar Mitzvah in Israel
For many American parents and grandparents, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Israel provides a young man or woman with an unbreakable link with what it means to be Jewish. Traveling together, members of family can effortlessly and positively influence their children`s attachment to their Jewish heritage as they experience together the phenomenal renaissance of their ancient homeland. Celebrating a Bar/Bat Mitzvah in Israel leaves treasured memories that last a lifetime.
A Bar/Bat Mitzvah is easy to arrange – whether individually, or by participating in a group tour where all the planning is done for you.
The Western Wall is a popular choice as a venue for Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebrations since it symbolizes Jewish spirit and heritage. Bar Mitzvah services are held on Monday and Thursday mornings when Torah portions are traditionally read. Services at the Western Wall are in the Orthodox tradition, and men and women have separate prayer areas.
The Western Wall
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation offers a free service to help families with everything from initial planning of the event to helping conduct or explain the service. Additional assistance is available, including lending Tefillin (phylacteries) or Talitot (prayer shawls), and organizing a tour of the Western Wall Tunnels for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah child and family following the service.
For more information about the many options available for Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations at the Western Wall, see www.thekotel.org, or call 972-1599-515888
The Southern Wall, Jerusalem
The Southern Wall is no less holy than the Western Wall, for it is part of the remaining Southern enclosure of the Temple Mount. Private Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies may be held here.
Unlike at the Western Wall, ceremonies are held according to your and your rabbi`s traditions – so men and women may celebrate, sit and pray together.
The atmosphere is tranquil, the view of the Judean Hills and the Mount of Olives is haunting. The congregation sits on the ancient, stone Hulda Steps, the original stairs leading to the Second Temple.
Your rabbi should make arrangements with the office in charge: Chevra L`Pituach Mizrach Yerushalayim 8 Shamai Street (POB 2395) Jerusalem 94631. Telephone: 011-972-2-627-7550 or 011-972-2-625-4404
Fax: 011-972-2-627-7962 or 011-972-2-624-7137
The Israel Ministry of Tourism, The Municipality of Jerusalem – Tourism Authority and the Jerusalem Hotel Association Invite you To an amazing Bar/Bat Mitzvah adventure for the whole family!
The Western Wall Tunnels
Excavated almost 30 years ago, the Western Wall Tunnels are one of Israel`s most splendid archaeological discoveries. Their galleries enable visitors to comprehend the enormity of the Second Temple (a construction of such height and vastness that it dwarfs the Dome of The Rock), and they reveal the extraordinary depth of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, enabling visitors to reach the nearest point accessible to the destroyed Temple`s Holy of Holies.
Ceremonies here, like at the Western Wall, are strictly Orthodox. To make arrangements: (Tel) 011-972-2-627-1333.
The Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem
Private Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies may be held in the historic courtyard and gardens of Jerusalem`s 2000+ year-old Citadel.
For information: (Tel) 011-972-2-627-4111
The Hurva Synagogue
The Hurva Synagogue, destroyed in the War of Independence in 1948, is now a simple and elegant memorial graced by a giant arch which soars against the blue sky in recollection of the synagogue`s shattered dome. It has become a symbol of the Jews` return to our holiest city, and it is an ideal site for a private Bar/Bat Mitzvah service.
This 625-acre nature reserve dedicated to the restoration of the ecology of Biblical times lies between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. It contains hundreds of species of trees, plants and vegetation mentioned in the Bible and Talmud: cedars and hyssop, olives, figs and pomegranates, grape vines, date palms and Jerusalem sage. It is also home to wild donkeys, ostriches, oryx, Golan wolves and fallow deer, easily spotted as visitors explore ancient olive and wine presses, and excavations revealing ancient threshing floors, cisterns and ritual baths.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies can be Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist and include a tour of the nature reserve that connects to the week`s Haftorah. Celebrations are held in Neot Kedumim`s 600-seat outdoor theater and vegetarian or dairy catering is available. Arrangements should be made by the Rabbi or travel agent with the Neot Kedumim Reservations Department:
Synagogues around Israel
Any Synagogue of your choice, in Jerusalem, or anywhere in Israel is also an ideal location for Bar/Bat Mitzvah, particularly if you wish to hold the ceremony on Shabbat. For specific information contact:
The Center for Conservative Judaism: (Tel) 011-972-2-625-2529 (Fax) 011-972-2-623-4127
Har-El Reform Synagogue: (Tel) 011-972-2-625-3841 (Fax) 011-972-2-623-4866, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Movement for Progressive Judaism: (Tel) 011-972-2-620-3477 (Fax) 011-972-2-620-3446
Orthodox: Jerusalem Connection Resource Center (Tel/Fax) 011-972-2-627-1283, or The Great Synagogue, (Tel) 011-972-2-624-7112, (Fax) 011-972-2-623-3620
After the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, hundreds of Jewish refugees escaped from Jerusalem and fled to King Herod`s abandoned fortress-palace atop Mount Massada, near the Dead Sea. For three years, the refugees, known as “the Zealots,” lived, farmed and prospered atop the mountain, taunting the Roman besiegers from its summit. When the Romans finally breached the refugees` stronghold in the year 73, they discovered that 970 men, women and children had taken their own lives rather than becoming slaves.
Massada was excavated in 1964 and has become one of Israel`s most prominent and most visited sites. For Israelis and for post-Holocaust Jews everywhere, it is a symbol of Israel`s self-reliance and determination that such atrocities will “never again” be committed against the Jewish people.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah ceremonies atop Massada are held in the remains of the Zealots` Synagogue, arguably the world`s oldest synagogue still in use. Services here are conducted by the rabbi of your choice, according to Orthodox, Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist tradition. Arrangements should be coordinated by your rabbi, travel agent or relative in Israel by contacting Masada National Park: (Tel) 011-972-8-658-4207/8
(Fax) 011-972-8-658-4464 or
Arad Tourist Center: (Tel) 011-972-8-695-9333, (fax) 011-972-8-695-5052.
How Is a Bat Mitzvah Celebrated?
You’re probably most familiar with the term “Bat Mitzvah” when it’s used to refer to the celebration, but it actually refers to you, the Bat Mitzvah girl. Although in the secular world you are not yet even a teenager, according to Jewish law, a girl is considered an adult from the age of twelve. On your twelfth birthday, you officially become a “Bat Mitzvah,” a “daughter of the mitzvahs,” one who is obligated in mitzvah observance. All the mitzvahs you’ve done until now were just preparation; this is the real deal.
As soon as you turn twelve, you become a Bat Mitzvah, a Jewish adult. Many choose to celebrate the occasion with family and friends, but even if a girl does nothing at all to mark the day, she still becomes a Bat Mitzvah.