Bar/Bat Mitzvah


Some History


Coming of age for a Jew, which happens automatically at age 13 for a boy and 12 for a girl, is termed bar and bat mitzvah , that is, obligated to perform the Jewish mitzvot (commandments). A ceremony marking the first performance of mitzvot such as being called up to the Torah to say the blessings (known as “getting an aliyah“) began to make sense only in the Middle Ages. Earlier, the age of majority had little practical meaning because minors were “permitted” (though not “obligated”) to perform many rituals that were later reserved only for boys who had reached the age of bar mitzvah .


The history of the bar mitzvah dates back to a fifth-century rabbinic text references a blessing (still part of a traditional bar mitzvah) recited by the father thanking God for freeing him from responsibility for the deeds of his child, who is now accountable for his own actions. A 14th-century text mentions a father reciting this blessing in a synagogue when his son has his first aliyah . By the 17th century, boys celebrating this coming of age were also reading from the Torah, chanting the weekly prophetic portion, leading services, and delivering learned talks.


Religious reformers of 19th-century Europe, uncomfortable with the ritual focus of the bar mitzvah, developed the confirmation ceremony, which celebrated the acquisition of the principles of Jewish faith by older teens. The confirmation ceremony quickly included girls as well as boys and spread to Reform and later Conservative congregations in the United States.


Preparing Bar/Bat Mitzvah


Usually, the child will begin preparations for his or her bar/bat mitzvah about a year before the big day. At the bar/bat mitzvah, the child will generally get an aliyah and usually chant the haftarah (prophetic reading) as well. Many children also chant all or some of the weekly Torah portion and/or lead all or part of the prayer services.  Anastasia B Photography will attend your home to capture your child as they prepare for this great event.  Anastasia B Photography encourages you to include the entire family (include your beloved pets) to capture these intimate moments in your own home.


Bar/Bat Mitzvah


On Shabbat (and various other days), the Torah – a scroll containing the Five Books of Moses – is read publicly. The Torah is divided into 54 portions, following an annual cycle, with one portion read each week in the synagogue.


The weekly portion is further sub-divided into seven sections. At Shabbat morning services, people are called up and honored with saying the special blessings before and after the reading of each section.


The Torah is removed from the holy ark, and then carried to the bima, the raised platform from where the Torah is read. While the Torah is being carried, everyone stands out of respect.


Colloquially speaking, when people say, "I had a Bar Mitzvah," it means that they had an aliyah to the Torah in synagogue. "Aliyah" means to "go up" to the bima.


The Torah scroll is meticulously written by hand by a God-fearing scribe. A number of rules ensure that the Torah is written with perfect accuracy, thus maintaining the unbroken chain of tradition back to Mount Sinai.


On the Shabbat following his 13th birthday or her 12th birthday, the young man or woman is called up to the Torah. This calculation follows the Jewish calendar. At the conclusion of his final blessing, some synagogues have the custom to good-naturedly pelt the young man or woman with candies. 


Anastasia B Photography is available to capture your every need during this coming of age celebration.   Anastasia B Photography will work with you to capture your child with The Torah and his/her Tallis and your entire family.  Anastasia B has captured numerous events ranging from a smaller family gathering to grand catered events.  Anastasia B will capture all the details of your event, formal portraits and all those fun candids of the children and adults celebrating this wonderful event in your child’s life.


Anastasia B Photography is based in Greenwich CT and is a Portrait and Event Photographer specializing in Greek Orthodox Baptisms, Weddings, Bar and Bat Mitvah’s, and Sweet 16’s in lower Fairfield CT, Westchester NY, Northern NJ and Boca Raton FL.  I hope to see you in front of my lens soon!!