Bar Mitzvah is a Hebrew phrase that means "son of commandment," and
refers to the change in status of a thirteen-year-old boy in the eyes of
Judaism. When a Jewish boy reaches the age of thirteen, he automatically
becomes Bar Mitzvah and is considered a man in Jewish Law. Practically, this
means that he becomes responsible for his actions and for observing the
commandments of the Torah. The commandments focus one on that which is truly
important; family, community and a relationship with G-d.
Thirteen is an age at which a boy's body is
changing and developing and this is a direct reflection of the spiritual
changes that his boy is undergoing too. According to Kabbalah, there are
several levels of soul in a person's spiritual being and a new level of soul
comes into awareness at the time of Bar Mitzvah. As a result, moral awareness
and sensitivity develops and enables the young person to take responsibility
for his actions.
According to the Talmud, a commandment that is
performed because one is commanded to do so is considered greater than a
commandment performed voluntarily due to the natural aversion one has to
fulfill an obligation. The Bar Mitzvah is celebrated in Jewish circles
precisely because of overcoming this aversion which signifies maturity. Bar
Mitzvah celebrations are focused around reaching the stage of obligation.
In honor of this occasion, the boy is called up
to read from the Torah scroll in the Synagogue on the Shabbat following his Bar
Mitzvah. At the conclusion of the final blessing there is a custom to shower
the boy with candies due to the sweetness of the occasion and in order to
symbolize the blessing of the congregation that this boy will revel in the
sweetness of Torah and it's teachings.
Other customs that have become acceptable over
the years is for the boy who has reached Bar Mitzvah to celebrate with family
and friends at a party or dinner that is thrown in his honor. Some people will
even make an effort to take their son who reaches Bar Mitzvah to the Wailing Wall
in Jerusalem, to get called up to the Torah in front of Judaism's holiest site
in our days.
It is common for friends and family to give the
Bar Mitzvah boy gifts at the Bar Mitzvah celebration, with immediate
family usually giving religious items that are essential for a boy's religious
observance, such as Tefillin, Tallit and books with religious content. Friends
and other relatives will often give gifts with religious significance such as
Jewish jewelry, Judaica gifts such
as a Menorah or Torah hand pointer. Others may give sums of money in multiples
of eighteen, due to the fact that eighteen is the numerical value of the Hebrew
which means life in Hebrew- as a way of wishing the Bar Mitzvah boy a life full
of happiness, health and G-dliness.