A Bat Mitzvah is a young Jewish woman who came of age and must start obeying all 613 commandments that Jews are obligated to follow. It is a time of celebration and joy in the Jewish faith.







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A Bat Mitzvah is a young Jewish woman who came of age and must start obeying all 613 commandments that Jews are obligated to follow. It is a time of celebration and joy in the Jewish faith. Bat Mitzvah is the Hebrew word for daughter of the commandments. In the Jewish faith, when a girl turns 12 years of age, she becomes an adult according to Jewish law. This means that she will start being required to keep all of the 613 commandments that Judaism mandates for its followers. While many Jewish children start to keep some mitzvoth before age 12 as a preparation for the Jewish adult life that awaits them, at age 12, Jewish young women are mandated to keep the rest of the mitzvoth that they were not keeping up until that point. It is the age when a person becomes responsible for their actions. 

Bat Mitzvah is the Hebrew word for daughter of the commandments. In the Jewish faith, when a girl turns 12 years of age, she becomes an adult according to Jewish law. This means that she will start being required to keep all of the 613 commandments that Judaism mandates for its followers. While many Jewish children start to keep some mitzvoth before age 12 as a preparation for the Jewish adult life that awaits them, at age 12, Jewish young women are mandated to keep the rest of the mitzvoth that they were not keeping up until that point. It is the age when a person becomes responsible for their actions. 

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However, it is critical to note that according to the Talmud, becoming a bat mitzvah does not make one entirely an adult. Pirkai Avot stresses that while one becomes responsible for fulling the commandments at age 12, 18 is the proper age for marriage and 20 is the age to start making a living. Elsewhere in the Talmud, it says the proper age for marriage is between 16 and 24. Nevertheless, when a young Jewish woman comes to the age to start keeping the commandments, it is considered a time for a festive celebration. 

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For young Jewish women across the globe, the day where they come of age is a time of happiness, excitement, and joy.  Many families throw elaborate wedding-style parties for the young bat mitzvah girl. In Middle Eastern Jewish communities, it is even a custom to place henna on her hand as she enjoys her special big day like one would do for a bride and everyone dresses up in elaborate oriental costumes. The Bat Mitzvah girl will be tossed up in the air on a chair as everyone dances in order to celebrate the special occasion.  It is traditional for a Bat Mitzvah girl to receive a gift as well from the guests. Gifts usually include Judaica items such as Hanukkah menorahs, Shabbat candle holders, Judaica books, Jewish jewelry, and other items that highlight the importance of Judaism for the young woman’s life ahead of her. 

The day where a young Jewish woman becomes a bat mitzvah is a day that she need to prepare for. Many young Jewish women up until age 12 in the Diaspora attend Hebrew school, where the young Jewish woman learns to read and write in Hebrew, studies the basics of the Jewish faith and Jewish history, sings Hebrew songs, does Judaica artwork, and in Reform and Conservative Jewish circles, she will even learn to read a weekly Torah and Haftorah portion so that she can recite it in front of the congregation on her Bat Mitzvah day.

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In Orthodox Jewish circles, the Bat Mitzvah preparation is a bit different. Prior to becoming a Bat Mitzvah, young Orthodox Jewish women learn about the mitzvoth that Judaism requires them to perform and why Jews need to follow these mitzvoth. It is a time for young Jewish women to work on and develop their own personal relationship with G-d and the Jewish faith. Orthodox Jewish bat mitzvah programs focus upon this. They stress that having a bat mitzvah does not mark when ones Jewish education ends for one must study Torah throughout their lives. Therefore, they argue that one should not treat the Bat Mitzvah as the end of a young woman’s Jewish learning but rather as the beginning of a lifetime of studying Judaism. 

As the Bat Mitzvah is a time where a young Jewish women becomes responsible for performing hundreds of mitzvoth, Chabad recommends that Bat Mitzvah girls focus upon one of the mitzvoth as part of a mitzvah project so that the young woman can develop a deep connection with a particular mitzvah. The mitzvah project can be doing a tzedakah project, engaging in personal daily prayer, or cooking kosher food and delivering it to the less fortunate. In particular, Chabad recommends that young Jewish women focus upon the mitzvoth that are of critical importance to them, namely lighting Shabbat candles and making challah bread. On the day of the Bat Mitzvah itself, many young girls will dedicate an hour or two to helping others in order to highlight the importance of starting to keep the 613 mitzvoth. 

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In addition, it is the custom for the Jewish bat mitzvah girl to deliver a speech. The speech can be based upon the weekly Torah portion or researching an important Jewish woman in history while sharing lessons from her life story. In the speech, the bat mitzvah girl can also announce her mitzvah project and to speak of the valuable Jewish lessons that she has learned with others. The Bat Mitzvah speech is a time where a young Jewish woman becomes empowered in her faith and shares that empowerment with others. As Deuteronomy 31:6 proclaims, “Be strong and courageous. Neither fear nor be dismissed of them for the Lord your G-d is the one that goes with you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you.”