Becoming A Man
The term “becoming barmitzvah” refers to the day in a boy’s life when he becomes obligated to keep all the commandments relevant to a Jewish man, both positive (such as wearing tefillin each day) and negative (not eating on Yom Kippur).
This special occassion takes place on the day of his 13th Hebrew birthday – at the beginning of the 14th year of his life. Barmitzvah status is conferred on a boy even if he participates in no religious ceremony whatsoever.
Of course, most boys associate becoming barmitzvah with taking part in a special synagogue ceremony and enjoying a festive party with family and friends.
But if the presents, good wishes and even being called up to the Torah in shul aren’t really necessary to becoming barmitzvah, why do boys bother with coming of age celebrations at all?
In fact, the concept of throwing a barmitzvah bash originates in the Talmud. Tractate Kiddushin relates the story of a blind scholar known as Rabbi Yosef, who was worried that his disability would mean he was not obligated to keep Torah commandments.
Even more troubling to him was the idea that if he kept them anyway, his reward would not be as great as one who was commanded to do so. Upon learning that he was, in fact, just as obligated to observe Torah law as his sighted compatriots, Rabbi Yosef expressed his delight by hosting a grand party.
Similarly, barmitzvah boys who have also just attained a new status of responsibility celebrate with a seudat mitzvah (festive meal) too.
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