Bar mitzvah means son of the commandments in Hebrew and bat mitzvah means daughter of the commandments. A bar/bat mitzvah signifies the transition from childhood to adulthood in their walk and relationship with Adonai! There are three scriptures that are associated with this ceremony about teaching the children:
Proverbs 22:6. Teach your children to choose the right path, and when they are older, they will remain upon it.
Ecclesiastes 3:1. A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven.
Deuteronomy 6:4-7. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. 6 “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.
The heart of our relationship with Adonai is expressed in the above passage of Torah. To teach our children the affirmation of God’s uniqueness, the duty to teach obedience loyalty to Adonai through performance of Mitzvot’s (commands) coupled with the acceptance and salvation of Messiah Yeshua! The purpose of the commandments is to keep our lives focused on what’s truly important: family, community, and an intimate relationship with God.
The formal ceremony celebrating a child’s transition into young adult hood has evolved over time. In Luke 2 we read of a 12 year old Yeshua in the Temple Courtyard;
Luke 2:46-47. Temple court among the rabbis, not only listening to them but questioning what they said; 47 and everyone who heard him was astonished at his insight and his responses.
Today at 13, the child is considered fully responsible for their actions and behavior, accountable to God for their sins. Bar and Bat Mitzvah represents a passage into the teen years and early adult hood. Although generally a 13-year-old is not considered a full adult, the spiritual emphasis of the ceremony connected with Bar/Bat Mitzvah is the teenager’s willingness to pursue Torah, seek the will of God for their life, and accept and follow Yeshua, becoming a member of the believing community. Though typically perform at the age of 13, there is no age limit to do a Bar/Bat Mitzvah.
Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrates the following values in the child’s life:
- Educational achievement: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah has mastered a significant understanding of the word of God and can share the fruits of their study publicly
- Inter-generational links to family members: The parents celebrate this day as well as a sign of the child’s willingness to follow in their paths of seeking God and God’s will in their life. Relatives participate in the ceremony as a connection to the past and a guide in the future.
- Acceptance of Commitment: The Bar/Bat Mitzvah pledges to take a personal stand to live by responsible and moral standards as prescribed and outlined in the Word of God. To live in accordance with Biblical traditions, culture, and faith. To set a Godly example to others and share the saving news of Messiah Yeshua.
- To perform Tzedakah (charity). The Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidate is required to do a Mitzvah-Mitzvah! They must research and find a charity to raise funds for and support a good, godly cause! This is how they learn Tzedakah!
The bar mitzvah boy or bat mitzvah girl is called up to the Torah (called an Aliyah in Hebrew, ascension, rise up) wearing their brand-new Tallit to recite the blessings and read from the Torah in Hebrew! These skills have taken a year of learning, studying, and practice to obtain. Keep in mind that services vary widely from congregation to congregation, depending on a synagogue’s leadership and its unique customs or traditions. After reading from the Torah, they share a drosh, a teaching, or word about what they just read and how it will applies to their life. Once the ceremony and drosh are complete, the boy or girl is now considered an adult in the eyes of Congregation! The ceremony ends with their proclamation of: “Today I become a man” or “Today I become a woman”! They are now a member of the Congregation.
After the service friends and family will be invited to attend a reception, a party that will have food, dancing, speeches, and entertainment to celebrate their milestone achievement. Common bar/bat mitzvah gifts include religious and educational books, jewelry, gift certificates, or money. Gifts involving money are traditionally given in multiples of eighteen because in Hebrew the word “Chai”, life corresponds to the number eighteen. Any money received is intended to be saved and used for college or to further the adult’s education.
In Messianic Judaism the Bar/Bat Mitzvah does not represent the culmination of one’s biblical education, but rather a stepping-stone to a more mature, deeper relationship with Adonai in Yeshua! It means taking responsibility for their actions and behaviors, using Torah as their guide, to have a biblical world view because that is the mandate of a child of God. Success in achieving these goals is what we wish for the Bar/Bat Mitzvah, and the beginning of that journey is what we honor in this joyous celebration.