The essential, ongoing role of the bar/bat mitzva

Rabbi Michael Hilton explores the history of Jewish coming-of-age ceremonies.

August 28, 2014 14:02
Bar Mitzva

Bar Mitzva practice at Anshe Emet Synagogue in Chicago.. (photo credit: CHICAGO TRIBUNE/MCT)

‘If someone has a son and he reaches the age of 13 years,” reads the manuscript of the teachings of Rabbi Yehiel of Paris, noted for his participation in the public disputations on faith in 1240, “the first time he stands up in the congregation to read from the Torah, his father should recite the blessing, ‘Blessed are you, Eternal God, who has redeemed me from punishment because of him.’” Then the source of this teaching is stated: “And the Gaon Rabbi Judah the son of Baruch [alive in the mid-11th century], stood up in the synagogue and recited this blessing the first time his son stood up to read from the Torah. And this blessing is obligatory.”

From this text, which author Rabbi Michael Hilton reproduces in his volume as the initial reference to bar mitzva, we see clearly that this observance has been deeply rooted in our tradition for almost 900 years.


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