By Chaviva Gordon-Bennett
Updated February 05, 2016.
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When a Jewish boy reaches the age of 13, he officially becomes abar mitzvah, meaning a “son of commandment.” Despite common thought, abar mitzvahisn’t a party or celebration, but rather a transitional time in a Jewish boy’s life in which he goes from being a minor to being a Jewish adult, bound to all of the commandments of a Jewish adult male.
Some of the basic commandments are being counted in a minyan, or quorum of ten men required for prayer, being called up to the Torah for an aliyah(to say the blessings before a Torah reading), and being held responsible for his actions both physically and ethically.
Thebar mitzvahis observed on the Sabbath, or Shabbat, and thebar mitzvahtypically spends months learning and preparing for the day he’ll reach majority by studying and preparing his Torah portion, memorizing the prayers over the Torah, preparing to lead Shabbat services, and prepping for a speech on the Torah portion or tying hismitzvahproject to the Torah portion. Amitzvahproject is a chance for thebar mitzvahto raise money for charity (tzedakah)or work on anotherproject to better understand his ethical role in the Jewish world.
It is common practice in most Jewish communities — religious and otherwise — for there to be a celebratory party or celebration in honor of thebarmitzvah. If you’re celebrating, chances are you’re going to want to get a meaningful bar mitzvah gift. Here are some of our suggestions for gifts that will stay with thebar mitzvahfor years to come.
In the Torah is the commandment oftallit, a clothgarment almost like a shawl with four corners that have fringes.
Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of sky blue [wool] on the fringe of each corner.This shall be fringes for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord to perform them, and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray.So that you shall remember and perform all My commandments and you shall be holy to your God. (Numbers 15:37-40).
Worn during prayer, in Ashkenazi communities, a Jew starts wearing atallitwhen he becomes abar mitzvah. In Sephardi communities, a Jew begins wearing thetallitafter he’s married. In both communities, whenever a Jew is called up to the Torah for analiyahto say the blessings over the Torah, he wears atallit.
Thetallitis an extremely special item in a Jew’s life because it follows him frombar mitzvahto his wedding to, in many cases, his death. In some cases, thetallitis passed down from generation to generation, too.
When a boy becomes abar mitzvah, he typically studies long and hard to learn his Torah portion so that the can read it before the congregation. One of the tools to help guide him in his reading of the Torah is theyad, or pointer, making it a great and meaningful gift that he can use throughout his life.
The?adis a beautiful piece of Judaica for any collection, but it plays an important role, too.The Talmud says,
“He who holds aSefer Torahnaked will be buried naked” (Shab. 14a).
From this, the rabbis understood that a Torah scroll should never be be touched by the bare hands, so to easily follow along while reading, or to point a passage out to someone, theyad,which literally means “arm” or “hand”is used.
Probably the most important of gifts that abar mitzvahcan receive, tefillin represent a turning point. A set oftefillinisn’t cheap, but the gift oftefillinwill likely remain with a Jewish child for the rest of his life and will be used almost daily.
Tefillinare two small boxes made of leather that contain verses from the Torah written by an expert sofer(scribe), which Jewish men abovebar mitzvah agewear during morning prayers (except on Shabbat and many holidays). The boxes are attached to long leather straps that are used to attach the boxes to the head and arm.
The mitzvah (commandment)oftefillincomes from Deuteronomy 6:5-9:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your might. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting at home and when you are out and about, when you lay down and when you rise up.Tie them as a sign upon your hand. They should be for you a symbol upon your forehead.Mark them as a sign upon the doorframe of your home and upon the gates of your city.
Also, there are very specific verses, known as theshema,found within thetefillin.
Find outmore on women and tefillin in Judaismhere.
Tanakh is actually an acronym that stands for Torah, Nevi’im (prophets), and Ketuvim (writings). It’s often used interchangeably with Torah, as it represents the whole of the written Torah in Judaism.
Although Jewish children start learning Torah stories very early in life, having a really beautiful and personal Tanakh for Torah study is a great option for abar mitzvah, as the commandments and lessons of the Torah are all the more important and applicable to his everyday life!
Although not a traditionalbar mitzvahgift, one meaningful option is a necklace celebrating thebar mitzvah’s new responsibility. The word, in Hebrew, isachrayut ().
When a Jewish boy becomes abar mitzvah, he becomes bound to all 613 of themitzvotof the Torah and/or the ethical responsibilities of being a Jewish man. Thus, responsibility is an important them of this period of time.
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Gift Ideas for a Bar Mitzvah – About Judaism: Its History …