Judah ben Tema used to say: “At five years, the age is reached for the study of the Scriptures, at ten for the study of the Mishnah, at thirteen for the fulfilment of the Commandments…” (Ethics of the Fathers V.24)
A boy who reaches the age of thirteen years by the Jewish calendar attains his religious majority and is called a Bar Mitzvah. He assumes personal responsibility for observance of all the Mitzvot (Commandments). He is considered an adult member of the community and is qualified to be part of a Minyan for prayer and Torah reading.
The Bar Mitzvah is a major event in the life of a Jewish boy and his family. Many months are spent learning and preparing for the occasion. In Leeds, boys attend a pre Bar Mitzvah course and take an examination to test their knowledge.
Generally, a month before his Bar Mitzvah, a boy learns to lay Tefillin and should then lay them daily (except on Shabbat and YomTov) up to the Bar Mitzvah to become proficient and then afterwards for the rest of his life.
To mark this religious turning point it is traditional for the Bar Mitzvah to be called up to the reading of the Torah on Shabbat for the final Aliyah, which is called Maftir and then to read the Haftarah – a portion from the Prophets.
His father recites a special blessing after the Bar Mitzvah has recited both blessings on the Torah.
When the Bar Mitzvah has completed the final blessing, sweets are customarily thrown over him by the ladies in the gallery.
Although the Bar Mitzvah boy’s only obligation is to recite the blessings when called up, it is customary to recite the Maftir and Haftarah and some boys even Layen (read) the whole Sedra directly from the Torah. The Rabbi can provide a list of tutors.
Family and friends are invited to the Bar Mitzvah celebrations. There may be a special Kiddush or lunch in the synagogue or festivities that evening or the next day.
The calling up to the Torah should take place on the first Torah reading day (Monday, Thursday or Shabbat) following the Bar Mitzvah’s Jewish birthday. Accordingly, some boys will be called up, initially, on Monday or Thursday at Shacharit (Morning Service).
Women may attend and are made welcome. After the service, families usually provide a “Lechaim” and sometimes a festive breakfast. When the first calling up takes place on a weekday, it is customary for the Bar Mitzvah to be called up again for Maftir and Haftarah on a Shabbat when the main celebrations occur.
Advance bookings for a Bar Mitzvah should be made, via the office & in very good time, to ensure the date is free & can be confirmed, once the Rabbi has verified the boy’s Hebrew date of birth.
BHH in conjunction with LJOY are running a Bar Mitzvah boys club aimed at boys in school years 7&8. It has been specifically designed to provide the boys who attend a wide variety of Jewish education with an informal and relaxed feel. For more information click on www.ljoy.co.uk/LJOY/Bar_Mitzvah_Boys_Club or contact Sagi Yechezkel on 07707349757.