According to Jewish law, at the age of thirteen a boy is no longer considered a minor and is responsible to fulfill all the Torah’s commandments. The term “bar bat mitzvah” literally means “son of the mitzvah,” or one who is obligated in mitzvah observance.
The obligation is automatic, whether or not a celebration or special ceremony is held. But since becoming a bar mitzvah is such an important milestone and joyous occasion, we make a point of celebrating together with family and friends.
The Aliyah la tora
When the Torah is publicly read in the synagogue (on Shabbat, Monday and Thursday mornings, holidays and fast days), congregants are called up for analiyah: the honor of reciting one of the blessings over the Torah. Originally, the person called up (the oleh) would read a section from the Torah himself. But because these days many lack the necessary training, there is a designated “reader” who reads the section out loud, while the oleh reads along quietly (or listens).
Aliyah means “ascent,” referring both to the physical ascent onto the platform where the Torah is read and to the spiritual elevation experienced at that time.
Traditionally, a boy is honored with an aliyah on the first “Torah-reading-day” that follows his thirteenth birthday. Some wait for the first Shabbat that follows the bar mitzvah.
In order to receive an aliyah, one must be familiar with the procedure of being called up to the Torah and know the blessings recited before and after the reading.
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Learn how to chant the blessings of the Aliyah like a pro.
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