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Mazaltov.co.uk  - Bar and Bat Mitzvah
Bar and Bat Mitzvah is a Jewish religious ceremony which is usually followed by a celebration. "Bar" means "son" in Aramaic language which used to be a vernacular language of the Jewish people, while "Bat" means "daughter" in both Aramaic and Hebrew language. "Mitzvah", on the other hand, means "commandment" in Aramaic and Hebrew. "Bar Mitzvah" would therefore literally translate into "son of commandment" and "Bat Mitzvah" into "daughter of commandment". Both terms of course relate to the Jewish religion according to which a thirteen-year-old boy and a twelve-year-old girl are old enough to observe the 613 commandments of the Five Books of Moses or the Torah.

According to the Jewish tradition, children are encouraged to follow the commandments as much as they can but in contrary to the adults, they are not obliged to do so. But when they reach the age of 13 (girls the age of 12), they are considered to be at age and are obliged to follow the 613 commandments of the Torah. Upon reaching Bar and Bat Mitzvah, thirteen- and twelve-year-olds are not only allowed to take an active part in the religious services but they also become responsible for their own actions. They are now full members of the Jewish community and may posses personal property, testify in the court and be legally married. Although Bar and Bat Mitzvah is often equated with coming of age in the terms of becoming an adult, the Jewish laws are very clear when it comes to assuming the responsibilities of an adult including proper age for marriage which is set between the ages of 16 and 24. Rather than becoming adults in the true meaning of the word, Bar and Bat Mitzvah is about commemorating the religious adulthood.

Bar and Bat Mitzvah is among the most popular Jewish celebrations, however, it originally did not involve religious ceremonies and much less celebration. A boy automatically became a Bar Mitzvah and a girl became Bat Mitzvah upon reaching the age of 13 and 12, respectively. Today's public ceremony which acknowledges religious majority by calling the child during a religious service to read from the Torah (usually on Sabbath) which is known as Aliyah is thought to originate in the Middle Ages, while the celebration of Bar and Bat Mitzvah in the modern sense is a relatively new "invention". The religious ceremony is usually followed by a celebration in the form of a family meal or party although receptions which can be compared to weddings are not uncommon either. Celebration of Bar and Bat Mitzvah varies greatly from one community to another as Orthodox communities for instance, may not celebrate Bat Mitzvah at all considering that women are not allowed to participate in religious services.

The celebrants are usually given gifts at the party or reception. The nature of gifts varies greatly ranging from gifts of religious nature to gifts in a style of birthday presents that are typically given to thirteen- and twelve-year-olds to college saving bonds.