My Bat Mitzvah is coming up and I want to do something special. My brother’s Bar Mitzvah was a big event with magicians, jugglers and a replica of the Titanic. What do you suggest? Also, we need to set a date. My birthday is in the middle of the winter when it will be hard for out-of-town guests to come. Can we make it in May?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
Although we commonly refer to having a "Bat Mitzvah," technically speaking, this is impossible. "Bat Mitzvah" literally translates as "daughter of obligation" – i.e. the person is now obligated to follow the mitzvot of the Torah. Thus "Bat Mitzvah" is a status, in the same way as being a citizen of a country.
A Jewish girl automatically becomes Bat Mitzvah when she turns 12 years old (and a boy at age 13, since girls mature earlier than boys).
Though a Bar Mitzvah for boys usually involves an aliyah to the Torah, traditionally, girls have a more intimate affair with family and friends, complete with meaningful speeches and perhaps a symbolic candle-lighting ceremony.
When it comes to reading from the Torah at a public prayer service, a woman should not read. Since she is not obligated to pray with a minyan, she cannot be the agent to fulfill others' obligations vis a vis the minyan.
The question is: Should you try to make a Bat Mitzvah event like a boy's, or do something unique? Judaism believes that men and women have equal rights, but that their innate powers are different. The power that is exercised in the personal domain is primarily wielded by women. That's why many Jewish girls celebrate their Bat Mitzvah with a "chesed" project – acts of kindness – to help those less fortunate.
I recommend Lori Palatnik's excellent video presentation: "My Daughter's Bat Mitzvah."
To learn more about Bat Mitzvah and the Jewish woman, read:
"The Bat Mitzvah Treasury" (artscroll.com)
"Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Beyond" (amazon.com)
"To Be A Jewish Woman" by Lisa Aiken
"Our Bodies, Our Souls" by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller (aishaudio.com)
May you be blessed with a lifetime of good health and happiness, and may you merit to discover your unique mission in life and fulfill all your potential!