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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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!