According to halakhah (Jewish law—literally, the path that one walks), Jewish children automatically become obligated to perform all adult mitzvot (commandments) when boys turn 13 and girls, 12. Becoming bar or bat mitzvah means coming of age as a son (bar) or daughter (bat) of the commandments.
Many families choose to celebrate this milestone with a special ceremony marking the first time their child is called to recite a special blessing over the Torah (aliyah). This is an opportunity for the bar or bat mitzvah to make a public commitment to adult responsibilities as a Jew, to demonstrate Jewish learning and to join with the community in acceptance and celebration of his or her new status.
Jewish adults who have never formally marked their transition to bar or bat mitzvah may also choose to study and be called to the Torah in a public ceremony.
The level of participation in the service depends on the individual—with guidance from the Rabbi, Cantor and/or tutor. Blessing the Torah is the cornerstone of the ceremony; the bar or bat mitzvah may also lead part of the service, chant Torah and Haftorah, and deliver a d’var Torah (commentary on the Torah portion of the week).
Most b’nai mitzvah ceremonies at Beth Israel take place on Shabbat morning, but it’s possible to mark Jewish coming-of-age any time the Torah is read, including Monday and Thursday mornings, Rosh Hodesh (the beginning of each month on the Jewish calendar) and most holidays.
For details about preparation and planning for a bar or bat mitzvah at Beth Israel, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.