Bar Mitzvah (bärmĭtsˈvə) [key] [Aramaic, = son of the Commandment], Jewish ceremony in which the young male is initiated into the religious community, according to tradition at the age of 13 years and a day. The celebrant performs his first act as an adult, saying the blessing for the reading in the synagogue of part of the weekly portion of the Torah or, more traditionally, performing the actual reading. The exact content of the ceremony varies according to local traditions and customs (e.g., Ashkenazic or Sephardic). Today the religious ceremony is accompanied by a social celebration that is considered a Seudat Mitzvah, a feast in celebration of the fulfillment of a commandment. The 20th cent. has seen the introduction (1922) of the Bas, or Bat, Mitzvah, a comparable ceremony for the young female, by the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist groups and to a much lesser extent by the Orthodox. The Bat Mitzvah ceremony is performed at the age of 12 or 13. It often includes the reading of the weekly Haftarah, although it is increasingly becoming identical with the Bar Mitzvah.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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