May 24 2016

You're Invited to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah

By Admin

You're Invited to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah


You're Invited to a Bar/Bat Mitzvah 

It's not unusual for people with Jewish friends and associates to be invited to a Bar or Bat Mitzvah.  These quintessential rite-of-passage celebrations vary widely in content and style and are better understood and enjoyed with some simple orientation.

The first step is to understand the basic terminology.  Bar Mitzvah, literally "son of commandment" and Bat (some times pronounced Bas) Mitzvah, daughter of commandment, signify reaching the traditional age for responsibility for fulfilling the teachings of the Jewish faith.  For Orthodox Jews, the most traditional, those ages are 13 for boys and 12 for girls. For most of the other branches, it's 13 for both.  The terms Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah are used today interchangeably for both the event and the celebrant. 

Variations in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah observances among the branches of Judaism make it useful to know in advance which type you will be attending.  If it's Orthodox or Conservative, it will generally be on a Saturday morning as part of a regular weekly service that takes two hours or more.  If Orthodox, it will almost certainly be a Bar Mitzvah.  Men and women will sit separately and the service will be conducted almost entirely in Hebrew, although a sermon, congratulatory remarks, and a speech by the Bar Mitzvah will likely be in English.  The Bar Mitzvah celebrant will usually have a featured role in the weekly Bible readings and perhaps other portions of the service.  If Conservative, the event may be either a Bar or Bat Mitzvah, there will be no prescribed seating separation, and some of the service proper may be in English.  

After the service, refreshments are usually served in a separate room.  There will be a blessing, called kiddush, over wine, grape juice, or liquor, and family and guests will be encouraged to mingle and partake of pastries, salads, and other dishes.  A formal lunch for invited guests often follows.  Since Orthodox synagogues generally don't make a Bat Mitzvah part of the regular service, the celebrating young lady often delivers her religious dissertation at this event,  Like the introductory blessing, this informal meal is called a kiddush. 

Guests may also be invited to an evening social affair, which may feature a dinner, dancing and entertainment.  Since Orthodox and many Conservative Jews do not handle money on the Sabbath, the giving of monetary gifts is discouraged on Saturday during the day.  At night, the Sabbath is over and there is no such restriction.  It should also be noted that at most, although not all, Orthodox events, men and women dance separately.

Reform, Reconstructionist, and less traditional Bar and Bat Mitzvahs are even more varied. While many celebrations take place in synagogues or temples, they may take place on Friday night, just after dark on Saturday night, or on a weekday.  They may be part of a formal service or not and may be accompanied by instrumental music, traditional, modern, or both.

For maximum comfort and ease, it pays to ask the friend or associate who invites you what the rules of the house may be, including dress.  The more traditional, the likelier that suits, ties, and dresses will be in order.

Bar/Bat Mitzvahs are intended to be meaningful rites of passage.  They can also be very enjoyable.

By: David Hart

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