Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone

What is the Origin of the Bar Mitzvah celebration?

What is the Origin of the Bar Mitzvah celebration?

E-mail

Question:

What is the origin of the festive Bar Mitzvah celebration?

Answer:

According to some, the first documented Bar Mitzvah celebration is referred to in the Torah: "And the child [Isaac] grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned" (Genesis 21:8). According to one opinion expressed in the Midrash, this was the day that Isaac turned thirteen; the day when he was "weaned" from his childish nature, and assumed the responsibilities of a Jewish adult. In Jewish literature, this verse is often used as a source for the celebration made in honor of a boy's acceptance of the mitzvot at age thirteen.

The Zohar1 relates how on the day of his son's Bar Mitzvah, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai made a feast which was akin to a wedding celebration.

My research suggests that the celebratory Bar Mitzvah feast became a unanimously accepted Jewish custom some four hundred years ago.

As for the cause of the celebration, this is the day when a Jewish person is given the obligation and resulting privilege of observing G‑d's commandments. One would be hard-pressed to think of a more joyous occasion to celebrate together with friends and family!

Rabbi Shlomo Luria, noted 16th century Polish scholar, rules that the Bar Mitzvah feast is a seudat mitzvah, a "mitzvah repast," which means that participating in this meal is actually a mitzvah.

FOOTNOTES
1.

Zohar Chadash, Genesis 10c; 15d.

Rabbi Baruch S. Davidson is a member of the Chabad.org Ask the Rabbi team.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
E-mail
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (10)
February 12, 2010
Ber-Mitzvah
Do you really, seriously, believe that when the Torah says - "pashut-p'shat" that "weaned" means "no longer sucking at the breast of his mother", that this actually intends to be twisted into a proof-text for Bar-Mitzvah? Let us please not confuse an exegetical, allegorical lesson with the pure text of what the Torah is actually saying!
Donnie
LA, CA/USA
March 24, 2008
Re: Thomas
Children are our legacy! Children are pure and loving!
No one has said otherwise.

All that was said was that we were given by G-d the natural instinct of survival and self-preservation, which you also agree to. Someone else comes next.

That is, unless we let our selfless G-dly soul which comes in full at Bar Mitzvah kick in.

Those who have allowed for themselves to be selfless for a day, realize the difference between that lifestyle and their instinctive "purity" of "self-preservation".
Gabriel Desilua
Cancun, Mexico
March 23, 2008
Psychology
Let us, for the moment, forget Freud and animal instinct. I have studied psychology and philosophy only to the extent that I do not allow it to sway me from logic and reason. I love animals as well as my fellow man but we are made in the image of God not an animal.

As adults we too often fool ourselves into believing that we have all the answers. Not true. In my heart and soul, which my creator instilled in me, I find true love for our children and no manner of psychology or philosophy can bring me the joy I find in the innocence of childhood.

Instinct is as a guess or supposition. I place no great amount of reliability on instinct. Man, by his nature will do what he can do to survive. This came from God not instinct. The love of oneself and consequently the love of all others is God given. I do not guess or suppose it I believe it as God has allowed me to by the nature as a man he has given me.

Children will be our our legacy if we show by love & example.
thomas eby
white lake, michigan
March 23, 2008
Are children self-centered?
While this may not be the most prominent characteristic of children, this is basic Freudian psychology.

Instinctively, the primary focus of the human being is self-preservation. Education and societal influence (such as parental example) can train someone to be concerned for the good of others as well.

This is also familiar to those who study the Kabbalah. Every child is born with an animal soul, and only at the age of maturity fully develops their selfless G-dly soul.

The purity of children lies in the fact that even their animal instincts are not as coarse and crooked as the adult animal soul.
Gabriel Desilua
Cancun, Mexico
March 21, 2008
Giving
I dearly love this piece posted by Ann Arlosoroff. This grandfather took from his mouth the sustenance that the boy needed to survive and there can be no more loving act than this. I learned similar things from my mother who raised seven children on her own and literally gave food to her children that they might survive. We would say to her "mom, you are not eating" and her reply would be "I am not hungry". As children we accepted that but later in life we realized how much she sacrificed for us that we may not go hungry. God bless the mothers and fathers that teach their children by example.

Thank you, Ann.
thomas eby
white lake, michigan
March 20, 2008
"He gave me the BREAD out of his MOUTH!"

His zeyde didn't hug him, but he showed his love in the most primal way. Did my father love his zeyde?

Absolutely!

The young person might be unable to make it on his own, to support himself, to survive without the aid of adults.

He is UNABLE to put the needs of others before his own because, if he did so, he might well not survive. He needs others to put his needs before their own, so he can survive.

When the whole family was starving anyway, my father's grandfather used to say, "Give it to him. He's a growing boy, he needs it." It was true. He NEEDED it. This was not selfish. It was his duty to grow up and bring Yiddishkeit into the next generation. In fact my father never reached his full height, as exemplified by the fact that I, a woman, am taller than he, and my brother is over six feet (MUCH taller than my father). But he survived, because his grandfather "gave me the bread out of his mouth."
Ann Arlosoroff Vise Nunes
March 20, 2008
After Thomas Eby
Thank you so much for your commitment and grandfatherly comments.

Treasure treasures, bring up these gem-like treasures in yourself, even, for children are, most certainly our greatest treasure.

Why after 13? Yikes!! For the prey of Mammon, Babel, Baal and such doth come .. all matter of temptation, and yes, also 'hormones'.

May g-d bless you for your wisdom in seeing beyond the harsh realities of adult life.
Admin worker, Mary Mother of God School
March 20, 2008
children
I am an advocate of children and their welfare and I must disagree to some degree. I have watched little children on up to their pre-teen years and even after where they have been generous to their siblings and friends and shared with them without hesitation. It is true that some children have not learned this. And how so? Because their parents (adults) have not given them good examples as they are growing. The parent that is loving and kind and shows by" EXAMPLE" that love and kindness is far more successful than those who are demanding of their children and says do as I say not as I do.

As you can probably tell I have a great love for all children no matter what race, religion, color or background they come from. As Father Flanagan of "Boys Town" fame said "There are no bad children only bad examples shown to them.
thomas eby
white lake, michigan
March 19, 2008
RE: Jewish children
Great point! Children are indeed very loving, curious, and pure. However, the nature of children is that they have not yet developed a sense of responsibility to others, even at the cost of their own needs, which is a degree of maturity.

(Unfortunately, many people don't develop this in their adult life either...)

Selfish and egotistical does sound a bit harsh, but the point is that children do not recognize the needs of others before their own, hence, the demanding, crying, fighting, etc.

For more on this topic, see Wanted: Self-Centered, Short-Sighted, Childish People.
Baruch Davidson, Chabad.org
March 19, 2008
Jewish children
I am just curious why it is pointed out in this article about Bar Mitzvah that the boy under 13 is selfish and egotistical? Is there a reason that you would put it this way?

Personally, I find children to be loving and very curious about everything around them.
I say this of course from the viewpoint of a man 72 years of age tho I have always felt that way about children. They are our most prescious gift from God and it is only when they are really introduced into the adult world that they become selfish and egotistical.

I have often felt that if God would take away all of the adults from this world and let me raise the children I would see to it that they would never learn prejudice, lust, envy, hate and the myriad things that affect all adults. That is how much I treasure children. I know this is an impossible dream but oh what a world it would be.

God Bless
thomas eby
white lake, michigan
FEATURED ON CHABAD.ORG