Many bar mitzvahs are celebrated in the synagogue during the Shabbat morning service. There are several opportunities to honor family and friends who have joined the celebrations, particularly during the Torah reading.

It’s important to note that these honors, called kibbudim in Hebrew, vary based on the customs of each community and synagogue. It is suggested to plan this aspect of the event well in advance with the rabbi or gabbai (beadle) of the congregation.

The following are the standard honors for the Shabbat morning service. Posted after each described honor are links to learn more and to how-to instructions.

(If you plan on honoring someone who may be unfamiliar with the ritual, use our popular tool to share a page associated with the honor via e‑mail prior to the event.)

1. Aliyah

The Shabbat Torah reading is typically divided into eight sections. An aliyah refers to the honor of being called up to recite one of the blessings over the Torah before and after each section, so eight different people are honored with an aliyah during each Torah reading. The first aliyah is generally reserved for a Kohen, and the second for a Levi. The next five can be given to any Yisrael. The eighth and final aliyah includes the reading of the haftarah; this honor is often given to the bar mitzvah boy.

Aliyot are given to Jewish males over the age of bar mitzvah (thirteen years old). A person may not receive an aliyah immediately following his father or brother. It is customary to offer a prayer of wellbeing for the honoree and his family. The gabbai calls the honoree to the Torah with his and his father’s Hebrew names.)

See our step-by-step guide to the aliyah, or click here for a video tutorial.

2. Opening the ark

It is an honor to begin the Torah reading service. The member of the congregation given this honor opens the ark, takes out the Torah and hands it to the cantor. The cantor carries the Torah to the bimah (reading table), which is situated in the center of the sanctuary. At the conclusion of the reading, the person honored with opening the ark will open the ark and return the Torah to its place.

For a video tutorial on the procedure of opening the ark, click here.

3. Lifting the Torah (hagbah)

At the conclusion of the Torah reading, a member of the congregation is honored with lifting the open Torah so the entire congregation can see the Torah. This is called hagbah. If you plan to honor someone with hagbah, keep in mind that the Torah scroll can be quite heavy to lift.

4. Dressing the Torah (gelilah)

Before the Torah scroll is returned to its place in the ark, it is rolled up and bound and covered with its mantle. This honor, called gelilah, is traditionally given to a young boy under the age of bar mitzvah.

For a video tutorial on the procedure of lifting and dressing the Torah, click here.

5. The chazan (cantor)

The honor of leading the congregation as the cantor for the Shacharit or Musaf services can be given to one of the guests or relatives. Obviously, this honor should be reserved for someone with experience as a cantor.

For a video about the role of the cantor, click here.

6. Torah passing ceremony

When the Torah is removed from the ark, family members and the bar mitzvah boy can participate in a “chain of tradition.” Great-grandfathers, grandfathers, father and son form a line, and one generation passes the Torah to the next generation. Once the bar mitzvah boy receives the Torah scroll, it is brought to the bimah for the reading. Although it is not part of the traditional bar mitzvah ceremony, many find this meaningful.

7. Placing the tallit on the bar mitzvah boy

Before the start of the service, the father of the bar mitzvah boy can place the tallit on his shoulders, symbolizing passing tradition and the mantle of leadership and responsibility to the next generation.

8. Honors during the kiddush

Several people can be honored during the kiddush (refreshments served after the service). Reciting the kiddush over wine, reciting the hamotzi blessing over the bread, and leading the congregation in the Grace After Meals are all honors that may be given to friends and relatives.