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Bat Mitzvah: What It Is and How to Celebrate

Bat Mitzvah: What It Is and How to Celebrate

An overview: Everything you need to know about becoming a bat mitzvah


Mazal Tov!

Are you preparing for your Bat Mitzvah? Planning your daughter’s Bat Mitzvah? Feeling curious, overwhelmed, excited, nervous or unsure? Then this site is for you!

This article will help you understand the significance of this milestone and guide you through the preparatory period.

Welcome, and mazal tov on your upcoming celebration!

What Is a Bat Mitzvah?

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.

How Is a Bat Mitzvah Celebrated?

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.

Preparation and Study

You may have been to friends’ or siblings’ Bat Mitzvah celebrations and seen anything from at-home get-togethers to lavish, wedding-style events. It has become more and more common in the last few decades to throw big parties, but it’s important to remember that a Bat Mitzvah is much more than just a party.

The Bat Mitzvah is an important link in a continuous chain of religious and spiritual experiences, and the most crucial aspect of this milestone is the impact and long term effect the experience will have on the young woman’s Jewish identity. Your preparations should reflect this focus and not be dominated by less important matters.

The pre-Bat Mitzvah months are a good time to spend learning more about the mitzvahs, and the how’s and why’s of doing them. It’s a time to develop your own personal relationship with Judaism and G‑d.

Of course, it’s impossible to cover everything in a few months. The best preparation for a meaningful and fulfilling Jewish life is an education at a Jewish school, or an after-school program or Sunday Hebrew school.

But regardless of your previous knowledge, you can find a Chabad center near you that will offer pre-Bat Mitzvah classes. There is also a Bat Mitzvah Club with chapters in more than 200 cities across the United States, which offers exciting events, activities and trips, all centered around the theme of becoming a Bat Mitzvah. Joining a class or a club will help you prepare for the big day while connecting with other girls who are doing the same thing.

Mitzvah Project

A Bat Mitzvah marks the time when a girl becomes responsible for the fulfillment of hundreds of mitzvahs. The thought can be quite overwhelming! Many young women find it meaningful to choose one mitzvah to focus on. Of course, this doesn’t preclude doing the rest of the mitzvahs. But choosing one for a “mitzvah project,” researching it in depth and developing a personal connection with it can be a wonderful way to prepare for a Bat Mitzvah.

The mitzvah project can be something to help others, such as a charity drive, which will encourage the Jewish tradition of chessed, (kindness), or it can be a more individual mitzvah, such as daily prayer. You could also combine two mitzvahs – such as charity and kosher cooking – and prepare and deliver meals for the less fortunate. Whatever mitzvah a young woman chooses, she will certainly gain tremendous satisfaction from her work.

Women’s Mitzvahs

As you are learning about the mitzvahs, make sure to spend some extra time on the mitzvahs that are given specifically to women.

Two that you can do are lighting Shabbat candles and separating a piece of dough – called “challah” – when baking bread.

Girls can light Shabbat candles as young as three, but some wait until their Bat Mitzvah to start. If you have not been lighting Shabbat candles – or if you’ve chosen to wait – the Shabbat closest to your Bat Mitzvah is a good time to start. Visit our Shabbat Candle Lighting Wizard for all the how-tos, or check out the Do-It-Yourself Shabbat Candles video.

Even if you already light Shabbat candles, this is a great time to learn more about the significance of this beautiful mitzvah.

Some girls include challah baking as part of their Bat Mitzvah celebration so they can do the mitzvah of separating dough for the first time as a woman. Learn more about the mitzvah of challah here.

Finally, although prayer is not specifically a woman’s mitzvah, it does have a special connection to women. In fact, it was a woman who first taught us how to pray. As you prepare for your Bat Mitzvah, take some time to learn about the mitzvah of prayer, think about what prayer means to you, and make some time in your busy schedule to talk to G‑d.

Make It Meaningful

It’s important to make sure the actual day of the Bat Mitzvah is meaningful to the Bat Mitzvah girl. Some make sure to dedicate an hour or two (or more) to helping others. This can involve a trip to a nearby nursing home to visit the residents or helping out in a soup kitchen or any other volunteer organization. The Bat Mitzvah girl can invite some friends along, and it will help set the tone and remind her of the significance of the day.

The Party

Bat Mitzvah celebrations vary, and there are no hard-and-fast rules. Some prefer a small intimate gathering, others plan a large affair. But whatever your budget, make sure the guests know that this isn’t just a glorified birthday bash. Make the party more meaningful by emphasizing the importance of the Bat Mitzvah speech, telling the guests about the “mitzvah project” and inviting them to do a mitzvah, such as giving tzedakah (charity), themselves.

The Bat Mitzvah Speech

When a young woman celebrates her Bat Mitzvah with a party, it is customary for her to prepare a speech.

The speech can be a thought from the weekly Torah portion, or any Torah idea that resonates particularly with her. Many girls choose to research an important woman from Jewish history and share some of the lessons from her life. The speech encourages the Bat Mitzvah girl in the Jewish tradition of sharing the Torah one has learned with others.

The speech is also the perfect opportunity to announce her “mitzvah project” and thank parents, family and friends.

Bat Mitzvah Gifts

Traditional gifts for the Bat Mitzvah girl include books with religious or educational value, religious items, gift certificates, or money. Monetary gifts in multiples of 18 are considered to be particularly auspicious and have become very common for Bat Mitzvahs.

If a young woman is to begin lighting Shabbat candles after her Bat Mitzvah, her parents or grandparents will often buy her a pretty candlestick.

Post Bat Mitzvah

While the Bat Mitzvah itself is a tremendous milestone in the life of a Jewish girl, and obviously requires study and preparation, it should never be viewed as a “graduation” from Judaism, but rather as the bright beginning of a vibrant and fulfilling Jewish life. She hasn’t finished observing the mitzvahs, she is just starting!

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Join the Discussion
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Mandy April 24, 2017

So the mitzvah only applies to spiritual maturity,right? Reply

Viorica Lawson Thousand Oaks, CA April 16, 2016

My 72 year old neighbor, Marjorie, just became Bat Mitzvah and I, an Orthodox Christian, started to read about the Jewish traditions in her honor. My hat off to you, Marjorie, and may the Universal Architect surround you with love and light. Reply

Sandy Lewis Las Vegas June 30, 2015

When my father first started hearing about this event, he got upset and said it was not biblical. When did this practice start and where? I am going back about 50 years or better. Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein For November 27, 2014

But are women just like men? Is the only way for them to be Jewish to do the same things as men? Is that an affirming message to send our young women? Our tradition encourages our women to celebrate their Jewishness through what is unique to women, highlighting how their part in Jewish life is as integral to the Jewish people as is the way men participate. Together we bring beauty and G-dliness into the world. Please see Women in the Synagogue for more on this subject. Reply

Chana Boston November 13, 2014

A bat mitzvah happens when you turn twelve even if you do not have a party or a speech. Saying that you are having a bat mitzvah after 12 you should say that you are coming closer to Judaism. Read "how is a bat mitzvah celebrated" Reply

Avraham Nahoumi November 12, 2014

Since we are now living in the twenty first century, girls should be allowed to be called to the Torah just like boys and men. They should also be allowed to lead services and be rabbis and cantors. Reply

Meira Shana San Diego July 28, 2014

May 2015 - a special time for me; I'm to become a Bat Mitzvah. Yesterday was the end of the first session of study and the second sessions will begin at the end of October.

I wish my maternal grandparents could be there in person, as well as my mom, my brother, my husband, and friends who have died. My life as a Jew has been enriched by G-d and the aforementioned. My rabbis and Hebrew teachers have been working hard to teach me. I'm scared and elated, at the same time.

G-d has been good to me and I hope to make G-d proud again.

Thank you to Chabad for sharing their knowledge.

Todah rabbah.

Oh, I'll be 76 in August 2014. It's never too late to fulfill my dreams in G-d's world. Reply

Terry April 30, 2014

Good afternoon. I have been invited to my boss's daughters Bat Mitzvah in 2 weeks. I am unsure as to what an appropriate gift would be. Please help with suggestions?

Thank you Reply

Rabbi Shmary Brownstein October 22, 2013

A young man's coming of age and a young woman's coming of age (Bar and Bat Mitzvah) are each celebrated by highlighting the special commandments and practices that each one will now begin performing "for real." The Bar Mitzvah boy puts on Tefillin, which he has now become obligated to do, and is called up to the Torah, participating in the synagogue service in the way Jewish men do. The Bat Mitzvah girl would not be announcing her maturity by doing these things, since this is not the way Jewish women traditionally participate in Jewish life. Rather, she celebrates her education as a Jewish woman, the practices of lighting the Shabbat candles and the sanctification of the home family life through keeping kosher and educating a Jewish family, and the special dignity and modesty that characterizes the Jewish woman. Please see here for more on this topic. Reply

Shoshana Hantman October 3, 2013

And it is especially wonderful to see these proud, spiritual Jewish women put on their tallit, pick up the yad, and read Torah! Reply

Anonymous Hastings on Hudson, NY via May 13, 2013

My daughter has been invited to her first bat mitzvah at your Chabad. this will be her first time entering a Jewish place of worship of any kind. We are devout in our faith but deeply respect the Jewish faith. She wants to make sure she observes and participates appropriately. And, she is very excited! Reply

Lisa Providence, RI April 30, 2013

My Bat Mitzvah wasn't until my 36th birthday, but I loved it! Reply

Anonymous Canada December 25, 2012

I just had my bat mitzvah I was so anxious for the bat mitzvah speech. I saw this, I got so exited thank you! Keep up great work. Reply

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