What Happens at a Bar Mitzvah

A bar mitzvah (which translates to “son of commandment”) is a rite of passage for young boys of the Jewish faith when they reach the age of 13. When they reach this age, they become accountable for their actions as a man and are eligible to take part in public worship religious concepts. This celebration can take many different forms. Outlined below is what happens at a bar mitzvah celebration, but keep in mind that many elements of the celebration are flexible and different among Jewish members. This article will surely help you cross off your bar mitzvah checklist, if you’re planning on hosting one. 
Morning services 
The first part of the celebration most commonly takes place in a synagogue during the Shabbat morning services. While at these services, it’s common for the young celebrant to read (and sometimes chant) the Torah as well as recite many prayers to the guests. The Torah is also read if the bar mitzvah celebration is held on a Monday, Thursday or on Rosh Chodesh (the first day of the Jewish month). If the morning services take place any other day, the Torah is usually not read aloud. 
If the bar mitzvah is taking place on a morning other than Shabbat or another Jewish holiday, chances are the celebrant, along with his male guests over the age of 13, will be putting on two black boxes called tefillin. These black boxes remain strapped on each boy’s head and arm for the duration of the prayer services. It’s important to note that, if you have tefillin, you should bring them along with you when attending this service. However, if you don’t have access to any, the rabbi or another local will surely be happy to lend you a pair. 
In addition to the morning prayer services, there is often a reception that’s held on a Sunday morning or weekday evening. These receptions are usually lavish affairs that are traditionally very large and elaborate where eating, dancing, celebrating and socializing take place. 
Receptions are usually held in a large event place that’s able to accommodate all of the celebrant’s family and friends. Some bar mitzvahs even have decorations that align with certain themes. Common themes include sports, tropical, nightclub, Hollywood, Jamaican and more.
There is a sequence of events that usually take place at the reception. Traditionally, a bar mitzvah celebration will start out with the master of ceremonies, where introducing the family of the celebrant takes place. This serves as a fun and formal way of kicking off the rest of the festivities. 
Next is the candle lighting. The celebrant calls up their family to light the candles that will be placed on the cake. The first candle lit is done in remembrance of any ancestors who have passed away. Occasionally, the celebrant reads a short statement or poem about each member of his family in an effort to show appreciation and love for them. 
Dinner is next. However, before everyone sits down to eat, the oldest family member often recites the Ha-motzi, a traditional prayer and blessing, over challah bread. The Ha-motzi honors God as well as the celebrant and, once recited, the challah bread is sliced and passed around to be shared along with dinner.
After everyone is finished eating, it’s tradition for the celebrant to share a special dance with his mother in front of all the guests. This serves as a special part of the coming of age process and it’s a valuable memory for the mother. Once this dance concludes, it’s common for everyone to join on the dance floor to perform the horah, which involves everyone holding hands and dancing in a circle as guests hoist the hosts and family into the air on a chair. This represents being closer to a spiritual place and the inability to do something without the support of others. After the horah, a toast is made by the celebrant’s parents, thanking all of the guests for taking part in their child’s celebration. 
Do you need to bring a gift?
It’s customary to give a gift to a bar mitzvah celebrant. However, you are not required to bring the gift to the celebration. Sometimes, it’s best to include some money or a gift card with your reply card, or to just drop it off at some other time that’s convenient for you. Money is the most common gift, but it isn’t the only acceptable one. If you plan to not give money, try to think of something meaningful that will bring joy to a 13-year-old boy. 
Eventually, the festivities, dancing, eating and socializing dies down, and the day comes to a close. There is a lot that happens at a bar mitzvah party in order to celebrate a boy becoming a man. These events are extremely fun and can bring massive amounts of value to the celebrant’s life. Just make sure you bring your best dancing shoes, an empty stomach and a positive attitude so you can fully enjoy the celebration.

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