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Attending your first bar or bat mitzvah? Here are all of your questions answered.
This special milestone calls for a celebration! If you’re attending your first bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, you probably have some questions about what to expect. From understanding the difference between a bar and bat mitzvah to what happens at the ceremony and reception, we've got everything you need to know about this important Jewish rite of passage and celebration. Mazel tov!
A bar/bat mitzvah is a rite of passage to celebrate a Jewish boy or girl entering adulthood. This milestone represents the beginning of their journey to follow Jewish law in the religious community. This is typically held around the boy’s thirteenth birthday and the girl’s twelfth or thirteenth birthday after two to three years of learning about the fundamental ideas and values of Judaism.
Bar mitzvah means son of the commandments and bat mitzvah means daughter of the commandments. A bar/bat mitzvah is meant to signify the beginning of an adult’s journey in the Jewish religion. Faith and dedication are intended to grow stronger after this milestone which is something to be celebrated with family and friends. For boys, it’s the first time they don tefillin and a fringed shawl for prayer.
The day begins with a traditional ceremony and prayer services typically held in the synagogue which includes a Shabbat service. The bar mitzvah boy or bat mitzvah girl is called up to the Torah to recite prayers and readings in Hebrew, which have taken years of learning, studying, and practicing during their bar/bat mitzvah lessons.
After reading from the Torah, they share a special speech about how they will apply these lessons in their everyday life. Once the religious ceremony and the necessary steps are complete, the boy or girl is now considered an adult in the eyes of the Jewish Community.
For the ceremony, most times male guests are given yarmulkes to wear. These are the traditional caps worn to show respect for the bar mitzvah boy, the religion, and God.
After the ceremony, it is time to honor the bar mitzvah boy or the bat mitzvah girl’s achievements and hard work with a celebration!
Right after the ceremony, the family may host a luncheon at the synagogue’s event hall or another venue where typically traditional Jewish cuisine will be served. This can include latkes, brisket, challah bread, or any other food deemed kosher.
Next, it’s time for a fun-filled bar/bat mitzvah party! Friends and family will be invited to attend a reception including lots of food, dancing, speeches and entertainment. The menu will include a variety of trendy and casual eats to appeal to both the children and adults in attendance. Ultimately, it is up to the bar mitzvah boy or the bat mitzvah girl what they want to serve on their big day. Guests can usually expect there to be cake on the menu—it is a birthday party after all—and the cake is often part of the candle lighting ritual.
The candle lighting is very important for the coming of age ritual. The bar mitzvah boy or the bat mitzvah girl must reflect and invite a pre-selected group of thirteen close friends and family members to participate in lighting the candles.
One of the most exciting Jewish traditions of the evening is the hora—a circle dance. This is a song and dance where the guests of honor (the child followed by their parents) each take a turn sitting in a chair and being raised in the air by their guests with surrounding guests holding hands and dancing in circles. A hora will energize the crowd and last about fifteen minutes.
We suggest wearing a suit, dress shirt and slacks, or dresses to be most appropriate. After all, the ceremony is usually held at a religious place of worship, so the more formal the better. As for the party, feel free to bring a different outfit to change into for a more casual and relaxed feel. Remember to wear something comfortable to move in so you can dance!
Since this day is to celebrate a birthday, of course, you need to bring a birthday present! Common bar/bat mitzvah gifts include religious and educational books, jewelry, gift certificates, or money. Since the day is all about the boy or girl reaching the age of adulthood, it is best to stay away from giving anything childlike. Gifts involving any amount of money are traditionally given in multiples of eighteen, this is because in Hebrew the word ‘life’ corresponds to the number eighteen. Any money received is intended to be saved and used for college or to further the adult’s education.
No matter what the gift may be, we recommend giving them a handwritten card to remember their special day.
A bar/bat mitzvah card should be more meaningful than any other birthday card. This is an important milestone because your loved one is no longer a child, but turning into an adult. We suggest offering life advice, writing about a memory together, or just share your congratulations for the dedication and hard work they have put forth throughout their childhood.
Lindsay's Bat Mitzvah – Photographer: Michael Jurick Photography; @MichaelJurick / Producer: Victoria Dubin Events / Event Design: Ed Libby & Co. / Venue: Angel Orensanz Foundation / Lighting: Fusion Productions / Entertainment: Untouchable Events
Published on 5/22/2020