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Responsibilities of a Bat Mitzvah

Jewish children undergo a life changing process as they reach the age of maturity. This process is similar to the rite of passage observed in other cultures. For Jewish girls, they are referred to as bat mitzvahs (daughters of the commandment) as they turn 12 years old, a year ahead of boys.

The bat mitzvah ceremony being practiced today grew out of society’s broader focus on women’s rights. It was in 1922 when the first American bat mitzvah took place. Rabbis see this stage in the life of a child as the ideal age of physical, intellectual and moral development during which an individual begins to develop a conscience. This coming of age entails the acceptance of adult responsibilities in accordance to the Jewish law and religion. As a girl is now transformed into a woman, she becomes responsible and accountable for her own actions the reason why she needs to be aware of what she’s supposed to do as an adult.

Prior to reaching this mature age, a child is required to undergo several months of study to learn his religious and legal obligations as a new adult in the community. This religious education is carefully planned with the guidance of the parents and a rabbi. Studying the Jewish religion is just one of the many responsibilities of a bat mitzvah as she becomes a full-fledged woman. Doing good deeds to others is another major obligation that a child should observe. However, the duties of girls differ in some ways from those of the boys.

A woman’s responsibilities are limited to following the commandments that should be performed at no specified time. Their celebration takes place primarily in a more private environment instead of being public as they were not required to perform any overt mitzvot. It was only in the late 20th century when women who got educated in Judaism called for the creation of meaning rituals for bat mitzvah.

By tradition, girls unlike boys do not normally read from the Torah at the synagogue during the Shabbat service immediately after their birthday. However, they can still attend the Shabbat service even without being given the honor to do the Torah reading. They usually just celebrate the occasion with the family at home with the girl receiving the blessings of her family.

For their part, girls can make a scholarly speech about a Torah subject during their own celebrations with family and friends. The speech can be given either in the synagogue at the end of the Shabbath services, at the party celebration ideally at the start of the traditional candle lighting ceremony or in her home at a family dinner. Most often, the talk centers on life’s lessons learned from famous Jewish heroines and personalities of the Bible and Talmud. Some of the common characters chosen include Miriam, Esther, Ruth from the Bible and Bruriah (the wife of Rabbi Meir) from the Talmud.

An interesting task that thousands of young Jewish girls still perform today at their bat mitzvah is to learn how to bake challah which refers to the special bread of Sabbath. The bread’s name originally means dough and is taken from the commandment.

Celebrating a bat mitzvah need not be made public because the private rituals can be as meaningful when performed with joy and enthusiasm.

Read more articles on the subject: Bar Mitzvah Traditions Still Being Observed Today

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