Celebration of Bar Mitzvah Required by Jewish Law?
by Rivka C. Berman
Is a formal celebration of a Bar
MItzvah or Bat MItzvah required by Jewish law?
A formal bar or bat mitzvah ceremony is not required by halacha. Since the true definition of a bar or bat mitzvah is one who is obligated to fulfill the
mitzvot, this stage of privilege and responsibility arrives by virtue of reaching one’s twelfth or thirteenth birthday.
The bar/bat mitzvah is simply a transition from childhood to adulthood in the eyes of Jewish law. It’s a legal move without a set ritual, without set rules. The Torah, Talmud, and later authorities say nothing about what’s a “must” to be considered a bar or bat mitzvah. (This is in stark contrast to the many strictures at a
brit milah or at a Jewish wedding ceremony.)
So Why Celebrate a Bar/Bat Mitzvah?
No ritual must be performed to be considered a bar or bat mitzvah. So what’s the
big deal all about? Why all the celebration?
Parents are accountable for their children’s misdeeds. Moms and dads were liable
if their little darling caused damage, stole, lied… Likewise, a parent is
obligated to train a child to do the mitzvot. At bar mitzvah, the age of
personal responsibility dawns. This new accountability is cause for celebration.
In Jewish thought, performing a mitzvah because it is commanded is valued more
than volunteering for mitzvah duty. Doing a mitzvah because it is a nice thing
to do is a fulfillment of one’s own desires, but doing a mitzvah because it is
commanded is acknowledging God’s desire, placing His expectations above one’s
own. To be held responsible for performing a mitzvah, to be a bat mitzvah, is to
reach of a whole new plane of serving God.
For many children, preparing for a bar mitzvah ceremony a highlight of their
growing awareness of Judaism and is a moment when they are the center of
attention (a most craved position). To participate in the service gives a sense
of belonging. To be the focus of all the fussing provides a sense of importance.
If it is done right, the experience will be positive and will build a warm,
happy, lasting bond with Jewish life.
Furthermore a bat mitzvah is timed to coincide with the first stretch of
adolescence. As a teen reaches for identity throughout these rocky years, bar
mitzvah memories fend for what it means to be a Jew. In the best case they will
foster a sense of connection with all Judaism has to offer.
Here to Search For
Bar & Bat Mitzvah Services