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Posted by Yevgeni Kuritski on June 07, 2014
Buying presents for children on the ocassion of their birthday might seem very difficult, as one has to reconcile both the child’s wishes, which may prove to be quite expensive, and the need to buy a significant gift that would be remembered for a long time. In the case of buying a bar mitzvah gift, the situation is even more difficult, as the bar mitzvah is a highly important celebration in the life of a Jewish child.
The bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah (in the case of girls) is an important Jewish anniversary. It occurs at 13 for boys and at 12 for girls. This celebration marks the coming of age when boys and girls become responsible for observing the commandments. This process aims to make them familiar to the responsibilities they will have when becoming adults. In this regard, parents organize parties to celebrate their child’s bar/bat mitzvah.
It is a fact that the bar/bat mitzvah is a rather modern celebration, not having been mentioned in the Talmud. Thus, it is common, but not a general rule to have it first celebrated in the synagogue, after the service, and then at home. The synagogue celebration depends on the congregation. While in some congregations, the child is asked to recite a blessing after the service, or even the entire haftarah portion, along with its traditional chant, in other congregations the child could be asked to read that week’s entire Torah section and maybe even lead the congregation into certain prayers during the service. It is also common for the child to give a short speech after the service which usually begins by the sentence “Today, I am a man/woman”.
Since the religious celebration is continued at home with a party, the question of gifts arises. As far as these gifts are concerned, there is no predesigned set of rules established. Therefore, the child could receive Jewish –related gifts or more common, mainstream ones. Should you know the child and his/her family quite well, it is very much in order to offer Jewish-related gifts: pendants with the Star of David, other pieces of jewelry depicting Torah parchments and symbols, a biography of a Jewish well-known personality, richly embroidered kippahs, photo albums and books referring to the history of Israel as well as the religious meaning of various events within the Torah, a DIY set of buildings related to the history of Judaism, embroidered tallits, candlestick sets, decorated with religious motifs, aluminum Torah pointers, a Bar Mitzvah set including a Tallit, Tefilin and Sidur etc.
Other popular gifts are writing sets and cheques of a multiple of 18, as 18 is a number having a significant value in Jewish tradition. In addition to the present, the child also receives a card, where, apart from the regular “Mazel Tov!”, there are other birthday wishes related to the importance of the occasion in the life of the child.
All in all, finding the appropriate bar/bat mitzvah gift should not be very difficult. Given the recent date of the celebration, a religious-related gift or a more common one should be the right choice to mark the occasion.