Bar Mitzva

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Bar Mitzva/Bat Mitzva

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

In Hebrew tradition, public prayer can take place when ten male adults, a group known collectively as the Minyan, gather in congregation. When a boy reaches the age of thirteen, he is considered old enough to participate in the Minyan and assume the duties of an adult Jew: to read Torah, and, among traditional Jews, to wear phylacteries (in Hebrew, tefillin; small boxes, bound to the left arm and the forehead, containing scriptural passages) during morning weekday prayers.

The occasion that marks this passage, usually taking place on the first Sabbath following a young man's thirteenth birthday, is called Bar Mitzva. Many Jewish congregations have also instituted a similar ceremony for girls, called Bat Mitzva.

At the ceremony, the new adult is generally honored with an Aliyah, a ritual in which he or she is invited to ascend the Bimah, the platform in the synagogue, and recite a blessing over the Torah, usually reading the Haftarah, the selection from the prophets read immediately after the Torah reading.

A Bar or Bat Mitzva is a joyful time of "coming out" that marks an important transition. The congregation is saying, in effect, "You are no longer a child. Now you are an adult. Take up your responsibilities."

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.