Bar Mitzvah 101 – 5 Things You Need to Know

Bar mitzvahs can seem complicated with lots of foreign-sounding words and traditions that perhaps you haven’t quite yet mastered. When you break it down, however, the elements of a bar or bat mitzvah are really not that difficult to understand. Here’s a simple look into a bar or bat mitzvah in preparation for the big day!

The Tefillin, Tallit, & Tzitzit

Tefillin are black leather boxes with parchments inscribed with the Shema and other passages from the Torah. They are worn on the head and arm — close to the heart — to be reminded of one’s connection with G-d. On your bar or bat mitzvah, you may also wear a tallit (shawl-like covering with fringes referred to as tzitzit) as another reminder of your connection with G-d and His commandments.

Tallit Tefillin Tzitzit Collage

The Aliya

An aliya is the honor of being called up to the Torah to recite one of the blessings over the Torah. This is done both before and after the Torah/haftorah reading. Both yourself and pre-selected congregants may perform various aliyas.

Mitzvah Aliya

The Haftorah Portion

As a bar or bat mitzvah, you may recite the Haftorah portion that coincides with the timing of your mitzvah ceremony. 2,000 years ago, Jews were forbidden from reading the Torah so they read instead from writings of the prophets that corresponded to the theme of that week’s Torah portion.

Mitzvah Haftorah Portion

The Bar or Bat Mitzvah Speech

The speech has become part of the traditions of a mitzvah ceremony. Typically, the speech reflects on how the Torah or haftorah portion that you have just recited pertains to your own life and the present world in which we live. It offers a scholarly perspective on these passages and can be as long or short as you choose. As long as it communicates your thoughts and relevant points explaining the lessons in the passages, you’ve done your job!

Mitzvah Speech

The Kiddush

The Kiddush happens after the bar or  bat mitzvah ceremony and begins with a blessing over the wine followed by a luncheon. The whole congregation typically participates in this, as well as family and friends whom you’ve invited to your ceremony.

Mitzvah Kiddush

The Reception

The reception (or modern day “party”) occurs after all of the above traditions have happened. It typically takes place in a different location than that of the ceremony, lending itself to themes, activities, and of course. . . lots of food! You can make your reception as low-key or elaborate as you choose, and is a fabulous time to celebrate with family and friends.

Mitzvah Party

These are the basics of a mitzvah! And not so hard to comprehend after all. It’s always useful to be well educated about a bar or bat mitzvah, so feel free to ask your mitzvah teacher in-depth questions or peruse this blog for more insight into the meaning of your big day.

photo credit: collage [clockwise from top left] photo 1 – southerncaliforniamitzvahs.com :: collage photo 2 – tallit-shop.com :: collage photo 3 – photo.net :: collage photo 4 – religionfacts.com :: photo 5 – southerncaliforniamitzvahs.com :: photo 6 – southerncaliforniamitzvahs.com :: photo 7 – southerncaliforniamitzvahs.com :: photo 8 – southerncaliforniamitzvahs.com :: photo 9 – southerncaliforniamitzvahs.com

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