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Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Coming of Age


A child is a child. Perhaps a bright child, a knowledgeable child, even a child more rational than an adult—yet still lacking the mental, emotional and moral maturity that distinguishes the adult from the child. Around the age of 12 for a girl, 13 for a boy, that sense begins to kick in. That’s why only at that age does Jewish law consider you responsible for your actions.

This milestone is known as bar mitzvah for boys, and bat mitzvah for girls. That means “son/daughter of the mitzvah”—because now you are obliged to keep all the mitzvahs (precepts) of the Torah.

Now that’s a milestone worth celebrating. So we hold a festive meal where words of Torah and inspiration are shared by the guest of honor and others. Make sure to schedule this celebration for the Jewish birthday, or shortly thereafter. Use our Bar/Bat Mitzvah Date Calculator to check the date.

It’s a milestone worth celebrating. We hold a festive meal where words of Torah are shared by the guest of honor and othersEven more important is that girls and boys spend the months beforehand brushing up on the how-tos of the mitzvahs and the importance of observing them, and deepen their understanding of what it means to be Jewish.

What if you missed the celebration? Once you’ve reached that age, you are a bar or bat mitzvah. It’s like a birthday: you can choose not to celebrate it, but that won’t make you any younger.

Bar Mitzvah Details:

A few weeks beforehand, the young man starts practice-wrapping tefillin daily. The bar mitzvah day is the start of the real thing. Also from that day, he is counted in a minyan—the required quorum of ten for a prayer service. Also, he may lead communal prayers and receive an aliyah at Torah readings.

The bar mitzvah boy is traditionally honored with an aliyah on, or shortly after, becoming bar mitzvah. In some communities it is customary for him to read from the Torah or the haftorah (the reading of Prophets that follows the Shabbat Torah reading).

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Anonymous Charlottesville August 24, 2016

AgentP, I'm well aware of Orthodox tradition as that reflects most of my family's practice. The introduction to the article suggests that we might expect a discussion of both. Reply

AgentP MA August 23, 2016

Etta from Charlottesville - why would that surprise you? This is a traditional, orthodox site. Girls become Bat Mitzvah at age 12 and they don't have an Aliya to the Torah. If you want to read about reform, or secular approaches to Judaism, don't look here. Reply

Rochel Chein for October 20, 2014

Bat Mitzvah Mazal tov! The sages of the Talmud explain that G-d created women with extra perception and understanding. A girl reaches maturity at 12, earlier than a boy does at 13.

See here regarding reading from the Torah. Reply

Anonymous freehold October 2, 2014

reform jewish bat mitzvah my bat mitzvah is this coming oct. 11 and i'm 13 why do other girls do it at 12?
and why is it that that thjey don't read from torah and haftorah Reply

Tamar November 22, 2011

Bat Mitzva Dear 'manipulated mama', chanting a haftarah at age 13 has nothing to do with your daughter's Jewish coming of age i.e. obligation in mitzvot. She is not a boy. If she were to learn the glorious traditions of a Jewish lady, such as candle lighting, challah baking, laws of family purity and any part of the Torah, perhaps it would speak to her heart more.
Are you feeling manipulated because she forced you into making a large public celebration and she is not living up to her part? Reply

Ben New York , NY November 22, 2011

psychological studies In the US, the age for any vice is minimum 18 and sometimes 21. The reason is because of studies showing that the average person doesn't develop proper decision making until this age. Today, similar studies are showing people mature slower and the proper she's would be closer to 27-28...well I hope that these 13 year holds fare better than the average bear... Reply

Mandy Detroit August 29, 2017
in response to Ben :

I agree. That's why we need to teach adolescent on how to be an adult at the age of 12-14. I'm not saying that once that reach 12 they are adults, but adolescents who are learning how to be a future adult, however, I don't think that the front cortex of the brain stops at 25 because we Americans decided to use adolescent as an excuse to be child longer instead of learning how to be an adult. Reply

manipulated mama via July 6, 2011

Bat Mitzvah Well, 13 comes and the behavior stays the same,..."I don't even want this Bat-Mitzvah!"
After chanting her haftarah, she is raised up and filled with Ha Shem. Until the next day, 'I don't want to do a Mitzvah Project and I don't know how to tie this parsha into my life,...I mean...really ma..." Oy! is this lifecycle tradition going to make a child into an acknowledged Mensche? oy, what to do next... and the invitations already went out...HELP! Reply

etta charlottesville, va January 20, 2010

bar/bat mitzvah Interesting that only details for BAR mitzvah are listed. Reply

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman January 19, 2010

Re: Bat Mitzvah obligations A lot of things change when you become Bat Mitzvah. If you say you're going to give a poor person some money or food, or anything s/he needs, you have to do it. That's called a "nedder"--a promise to G-d. The same with anything good you commit yourself to do. Before bat mitzvah, it wasn't so serious. Now, you really have to watch out what you say.

If you haven't been lighting Shabbat candles until now, this is a good time to start. Also, try to put a few coins every day in a charity box.

Basically, until now every mitzvah you did was just training. Now starts the real thing. Reply

Chani Benjaminson, January 19, 2010

Re: Missed Bar Mitzvah Thankfully it's never too late, an adult who never had a bar mitzvah can have one at any time, by laying Tefillin and being called up to the Torah.

Here are some articles on the topic:
Second Bar Mitzvah?
Bat Mitzvah for an Adult
And a beautiful story: Grandpa's Bar Mitzvah. Reply

Anonymous Casper, Wyoming January 18, 2010

Bar mitzvah What does an adult do who never had a Bar Mitzvah as a youth? Reply

Lynn east brunswick, nj January 18, 2010

Bat Mitzvah obligations What are the Bat Mitzvah's obligations? Reply

pin Long Beach, ca January 18, 2010

Bar/bat mitzvah translation I think it is more accurate to translate bar/bat mitzvah as 'one possessing (meaning able to and requitred to) mitzvos. Similar to the term a ben Torah. Reply

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