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A bar mitzvah is a coming-of-age celebration for Jewish boys. Before a Jewish boy turns thirteen, he will take lessons, usually at the synagogue, where he will learn Hebrew and how to read the Torah aloud.
Then on the Sabbath day after his thirteenth birthday a Jewish boy will become Bar Mitzvah (son of the commandment), this marks his becoming an adult member in the Jewish community.
On the Sabbath nearest his thirteenth birthday, he will read aloud during the service. He will read either a part of the Torah or a section of the Prophets. He will also wear a tefillin for the first time.
A tefillin is a set of small black leather boxes which contain scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah. These are worn on the forehead during morning prayers.
A bar mitzvah party is typically a large affair that follows the service. Family and friends of the young man will attend to celebrate his coming of age and affirmation of the Jewish faith.
Gifts at a bar mitzvah are welcome, typically gifts of money are given. It is common to give a money gift in a multiple of 18 but why is that a tradition?
In Jewish tradition the number 18 symbolizes “chai” or the Hebrew word for “life”. So, if you are giving the recipient a multiple of 18 then you are symbolically giving him a gift of a long and happy life.
There are many traditions that go along with a bar mitzvah. The first thing that happens at the party is the introduction of the family. Then the young man who is being celebrated is introduced.
Then there is the lighting of the candles. The child who is being celebrated will call his family up to him. They will then light the candles that will go on the cake.
The first candle that is lit is in remembrance of family members who have passed on. Sometimes the child will read a poem or a short statement about each family member who has passed on.
Before everyone sits down to the meal the oldest member of the family will recite the Ha-motzi over challah bread. The Ha-motzi is a prayer and a blessing. This is done to honor God and the child who is being celebrated.
Then the challah bread is sliced and passed around for everyone to share. After dinner is eaten it is then tradition for the child being honored to share a special dance with his mother. This special dance is often a fond memory for the mother to look back on later in life.
Then comes the dancing. Be prepared to dance if you are attending a bar mitzvah. There is a great possibility that the horah will be done, you will hold hands with the people next to you and dance in a circle.
During this dance is when the child often gets hoisted into the air while sitting on a chair. This symbolizes being in a higher place spiritually and that we can not do anything without the support of others.
The parents will give a toast thanking everyone for coming.
To see other popular bar mitzvah gifts just click here.
How Much Money Do You Give For A Bar/Bat Mitzvah?
The amount of money given to a child at their bar mitzvah can depend on who is giving it to them.
Typically, the amount of money given should be anywhere between two or four “chai” for each of your family members that are attending, that will be multiples of 18.
So, if you are a family of four attending a bar mitzvah you would give anywhere between $144 and $288. If you are sending a child on their own to attend a friend’s bar mitzvah then three times chai is considered acceptable which would be $54.
What Is An Appropriate Bar/Bat Mitzvah Gift?
There are other things besides money that can be gifted at a bar/bat mitzvah.
Traditionally at a bar/bat mitzvah the child would receive money in multiples of 18, Jewish cookbooks, spiritual items, or Jewish ritual items, as well as educational books.
An example of Jewish ritual items that could be given are Shabbat candles and candlesticks which would be used often through the rest of the child’s life. These candlesticks can come in more modern styles or traditional styles as well.
You will have plenty to choose from, the candles also come in a variety of colors.
Mezuzah contains a piece of parchment that has been rolled up and placed inside of it. This is hung by the front door and the inner doorways of the home to mark the home as one of the Jewish faith.
There are many different styles and materials that can make a Mezuzah so you can really try to find one that will be unique for the recipient.
A tallit is a prayer shawl and can be a wonderful gift for a bar/bat mitzvah. It will be used often by the child who is receiving it and you can find a wide variety and styles to choose from because each artist who makes them has their own unique design.
A Menorah is also a great gift choice for a bar/bat mitzvah. This candelabra that is used for Hanukkah will be used often throughout the recipient’s lifetime.
You could even have the recipient’s name or a scripture passage engraved on it to make it more special.
Personalized gifts are also a great option. This can be anything that you think the child would be able to use throughout their life that has their name on it or even a passage of scripture that has meaning to you and that you think could be significant to the recipient.
Jewelry is a gift that will be well received. With jewelry you could go with the tree of life, the Star of David, or the Chai symbol. You could also go with cuff links or earrings.
A Jewish cookbook will be used often throughout the recipient’s lifetime. You might want to choose one that is written specifically for teenagers so it will interest them more.
This gift of passed down traditional Jewish dishes will be used for Shabbat meals and holidays throughout the child’s life.
Educational books are also often given at bar/bat mitzvahs. The child is entering a time in their life where they’re curious and are expanding their minds. To find out what kind of educational book to get you could call the child’s parents and ask them what they are interested in.
Bar/bat mitzvahs are a wonderful celebration and getting invited to celebrate with the child and his family can be exciting as well. There is no need to stress over what sort of gift is appropriate as there are many options to choose from.