Preparing for the Bar Mitzvah

3. Preparing for the Bar Mitzvah: [1]

A. Learning Torah prior to the Bar Mitzvah:[2]

The period prior to the Bar Mitzvah is an extremely auspicious time for the child to be engaged in assiduous Torah learning and scrupulous fulfillment of Mitzvos.

What sections of Torah to focus on:[3] The focus of the learning should be specifically regarding the practical laws that the child will need to know to observe, [as opposed to subjects that are not in practice today]. [This includes the laws of Tefillin, Tzitzis, Hashkamas Haboker, Birchas Hanehnin, Muktzah.]

Learning by heart:[4] Certainly, the Bar Mitzvah boy should know already a few chapters of Tehillim by heart, as well as a few chapters of Mishnayos and a few chapters of Tanya, which he occasionally reviews.

Chapter 41 in Tanya:[5] Prior to the Bar Mitzvah, when the child is training in putting on the Tefillin, he should commit the beginning of chapter 41 to memory.

Learning Mamarei Chassidus:[6] Starting from the age of 12 one can begin teaching a child light discourses of Chassidus.

The Bar Mitzvah Mamar: See E!

Learning the laws of Tefillin:[7] It is the father’s responsibility to teach his son the laws of Tefillin prior to his Bar Mitzvah.

Learning the laws of an Aliyah: It is the father’s responsibility to teach his son the laws of receiving an Aliyah prior to his Bar Mitzvah.

Siyum Misechta: The custom of the Chabad Rabbeim was to finish the entire Shisha Sidrei Mishneh prior to the Bar Mitzvah.[8] Likewise, some are accustomed to have the Bar Mitzvah boy make a  Siyum Misechta on the day of the Bar Mitzvah.[9] 

B. Mitzvah observance; Minyan; Zeman Tefila:[10]

In the period prior to the Bar Mitzvah, the child is to be educated in guarding Mitzvos scrupulously, which includes guarding the times of prayer, as well as praying with a Minyan.

 

C. Tehillim said prior to the Bar Mitzvah:[11]

The child is to be scrupulous in reciting the daily portion of Tehillim each day after the prayers.

Reciting Psalm 13:[12] In addition to the daily Tehillim, the child is to also recite after Davening Chapter 13 in Tehillim, which corresponds to his age.

The Rebbe’s Psalm:[13] In addition to the daily Tehillim, the child is to also recite after Davening the chapter of Tehillim that corresponds to the age of the Rebbe.

 

D. Charity:[14]

It is proper for the child to become accustomed to giving some money to charity a few times a week prior to Shacharis, and if possible then every single day prior to Shacharis [as is done by adults].

 

E. Preparing the Bar Mitzvah Mamar:[15]

It is proper for the Bar Mitzvah boy to review the Mamar of Isa Bemidrash Tehillim by heart for the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah.  [Practically, the Mamar is recited from memory a total of 3 times: 1) On the occasion of the Hanacha Tefillin, in which he recites the 1st chapter by heart, as explained in Halacha 4. 2) After Shacharis on the day of the Bar Mitzvah, as explained in Halacha 6. 3) By the Bar Mitzvah reception.]

 

F. Preparing the Bar Mitzvah speech/Drasha:[16]

It is an old custom of Jewry from previous generations that the Bar Mitzvah boy recite a speech by the celebration.[17] Accordingly, the Bar Mitzvah boy needs to prepare a Drasha in Nigleh and Pilpul to be recited by his Bar Mitzvah celebration, in addition to his recital of the Mamar.[18] Whether or not he actually recites it is dependent on the community custom.[19] Matters of Chassidus are to also be included in the Drasha.[20] If he does not know how to recite a Drasha, then the father is to recite it. Other people may also be honored to recite a Drasha in front of him.[21]

 

G. Learning how to Lein-Having the Bar Mitzvah boy Lein from the Torah:[22]

Introduction: It is an old custom for the Bar Mitzvah boy to receive an Aliyah to the Torah on the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah[23], in order to publicize that he has now reached the age of Mitzvos.[24] In previous times when it was customary for the Olah to also be the Baal Korei[25], every Bar Mitzvah boy would not just receive the Aliyah but would also read the portion from the Torah.[26] Accordingly, children of Bar Mitzvah age would need to be taught how to read from the Torah properly. However, over the generations the custom evolved to having a set Baal Korei read from the Torah, independently of the person receiving the Aliyah.[27] Accordingly, it became no longer necessary for children of Bar Mitzvah age to be taught to read from the Torah. Nonetheless, as will be explained next, some communities continued not only with the custom of educating the child to read his Aliyah, but furthermore to have him read the entire Parsha of that week.  

The custom: Many communities of Ashkenaz are accustomed to have the Bar Mitzvah boy read from the Torah on the Shabbos of his Bar Mitzvah [if it falls on Shabbos, or the Shabbos after his Bar Mitzvah].[28] This custom is mentioned in the Poskim[29], although it is unclear if the custom mentioned in these Poskim refer to him to simply reading his Aliyah, or to him reading the entire Parsha.[30] [The reason behind the custom of having him read at least his Aliyah even though we now have a set Baal Korei, is due to the fact that in previous times children would receive certain Aliyos, such as Maftir[31], and hence in order to publicize that he is now Bar Mitzvah, he would read from the Torah in addition to simply getting an Aliyah.[32] However, today that we no longer are accustomed to call up children for an Aliyah[33], the Aliyah itself serves as this publication and there is hence no need for him to also read from the Torah.[34]] Practically, today the custom of Ashkenazi and Lithuanian communities is for him to read the entire Parsha. This is not the custom of Chassidim.[35]

The Rebbe’s opinion-Negation of the custom:[36] Practically, the Rebbe was opposed to the above custom of the child reading his Parsha on the Shabbos after his Bar Mitzvah, stating that it has no real source[37], and takes time away from investing into the real preparations that the child is required to do, such as learning and becoming an expert in the practical laws that will become relevant to him after his Bar Mitzvah.[38] However great the Mitzvah of reading from the Torah is, learning Torah assiduously is even greater.[39] [The reading of the Parsha for a Bar Mitzvah boy takes much preparation time, usually beginning a year prior to the Bar Mitzvah, with weekly lessons in reading the Parsha. In some communities this has become accepted almost like an obligation, and the peer pressure and accepted practice forces the child to do so. Nonetheless, in truth there is no obligation for the Bar Mitzvah boy to read his Parsha on the Shabbos after his Bar Mitzvah, and doing so places extra and unnecessary pressure on the child. The child must be educated to focus on the most important aspects of learning prior to his Bar Mitzvah and not matters that are mere superfluous. However, if the child is already being properly educated in his required learning, and if he is duly adapted towards Torah reading, then he may be educated in this as well as a secondary education.]

 

Summary:

It is an old custom of Jewry for the Bar Mitzvah boy to read from the Torah by the Parsha of his Bar Mitzvah. Nonetheless, it is not necessary for him to read the entire Parsha, and this is a fairly recent custom. Practically, the widespread custom today amongst much of Lithuanian Jewry is for the Bar Mitzvah boy to read his entire Parsha from the Torah, while the custom amongst Chassidim is not to have him read anything at all, not even his Aliyah. The Rebbe indeed discouraged the former custom saying it takes away time from being invested into the more necessary preparations of Torah learning.  

  

H. Arranging a reception for family and friends on the occasion of the Bar Mitzvah:

It is a Mitzvah on the father to arrange a celebratory meal on the day that his son becomes Bar Mitzvah similar to his son entering the Chuppah. See Halacha 9 for the full details of this matter.

Not to spend too much money:[40] One is not to spend too much money on the celebration and the main emphasis is for it to be a Torah and Chassidic celebration. See Halacha 9F for the full details of this matter.

 

I. Bar Mitzvah trip:[41]

The Rebbe does not encourage traveling with the child on a Bar Mitzvah trip, even if one plans to travel with him to Eretz Yisrael. The Rebbe rather encouraged for the money to be invested in other Torah purposes. [Nonetheless, many Chassidim are accustomed to bringing their child to New York to visit the resting place of the Rebbe, on the occasion of their son’s Bar Mitzvah.]

 

J. Haircuts:

It is customary for the child to get a haircut for the occasion of his Bar Mitzvah.

 

K. Praying on behalf of the child:

It is a Mitzvah for the parents to pray on behalf of their child especially before the Bar Mitzvah that he grows up to be a Chasidic and G-d fearing Jew.

 

L. Visiting Kivrei Tzadikim:[42]

Many are accustomed to bringing their child to Kivrei Tzadikim, on the occasion of their son’s Bar Mitzvah, to pray by the gravesite of the Tzadik and beseech him to bless the child. Many Chassidim are accustomed to bringing their child to New York to visit the resting place of the Rebbe, on the occasion of their son’s Bar Mitzvah.

 

M. Buying a watch:[43]

Many are accustomed to buying a beautiful watch on the occasion of the boys Bar Mitzvah in order so he be able to track time properly for the fulfillment of the various time dependent Mitzvos.

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[1] See Shaareiy Bar Mitzvah [Heichal Menachem] 1 p. 3

[2] Igros Kodesh 18:222

[3] See Igros Kodesh 5:149; 18:222; 20:118

[4] See Igros Kodesh 9:166

[5] Igros Kodesh 11:340; 14:533; Shevach Yakar 37:7, p. 100

[6] Igros Kodesh 18:265

[7] M”B 37:9

[8] See Nitei Gavriel p. 55

[9] Igros Moshe O.C. 4:23

[10] Kelalei Hachinuch Vehahadracha 8

[11] Igros Kodesh 14:533

[12] Igros Kodesh 11:340

[13] Igros Kodesh 3:350

[14] Igros Kodesh 14:533

[15] Igros Kodesh 19:111; Likkutei Sichos 16:499

[16] Igros Kodesh 18:222

[17] See M”A 225:4 in name of Rashal in Yam Shel Shlomo Bava Kama chapter 7 that if the boy gives a Drasha during the meal it is considered as Seudas Mitzvah; Ben Ish Chaiy Riei 1:17; Kaf Hachaim 225:11; Igros Kodesh 18:222; 17:230; Hisvadyus 5750 1:162

[18] Igros Kodesh and Hisvadyus ibid

[19] See Igros Kodesh ibid and Reshimas Haymon p. 27 that the Rebbe Rayatz prepared a Drasha in Nigleh but did not actually recite it

[20] Igros Kodesh 19:189

[21] Ben Ish Chaiy Riei 1:17; Kaf Hachaim ibid

[22] See Nitei Gavriel Bar Mitzvah 13; Shaareiy Bar Mitzvah [Heichal Menachem] p. 4

[23] See M”A 282 in end; Biur Halacha 136:1 “Beshabbos Veyom Tov”;  See Piskeiy Teshuvos 136:7

[24] See M”A 225:4 regarding him reading from the Torah in public, that this would publicize the fact that he is Bar Mitzvah [indeed in previous times when it was customary to call children to the Torah, especially for Maftir, only the fact that he read from the Torah publicized the fact that he is of Bar Mitzvah age, however, see Shaar Hatziyon 225:7 that today that we no longer call up children to the Torah, the calling up itself serves as a sign that he is Bar Mitzvah]; Levushei Mordechai Kama 37; Shaar Hatziyon 225:7

[25] See Michaber 141:2; Tzemach Tzedek 35:4

[26] See M”A 225:4

[27] Beis Yosef 141; Tur 141 in name of Rosh; M”B 141:8; Kaf Hachaim 141:15; See Tzemach Tzedek 35:4 that this custom of having a set Baal Korei was innovated in the times of Tosafos. However, during that time, the main custom was simply for the Baal Korei to assist the Olah in his own reading, and thus the Olah would still be the one reading out loud, and the Baal Korei would whisper silently to him. [See Tosafos Bava Basra 15a and Menachos 30a] However, later on the custom became to do the opposite for the Baal Korei to read aloud and for the Olah to read silently. [See Rosh Shabbos 1]

[28] See Minhagei Wormz 289; Leket Hakemach Hachadash 141:5; Keser Shem Tov [Gagin] p. 15 that so is the custom in London; Nitei Gavriel ibid

[29] M”A 225:4 “When the child reads the first Shabbos which would publicize to all that he is Bar Mitzvah”; Maharil Hilchos Kerias Hatorah p. 63 “When his son became Bar Mitzvah and read from the Torah”; Yosef Ometz p. 357 “On the Shabbos he becomes Bar Mitzvah he becomes old enough to read from the Torah..the Rabbis instituted for him to read from the Torah on the first Shabbos.; Poskim in Nitei Gavriel ibid footnote 1

[30] See Igros Kodesh 20:118 that “the custom was never to do so” which seemingly refers to the reading of the entire Parsha, as the reading of the child’s Aliyah was certainly practiced in the past, as explained in the introduction and Poskim ibid. Nonetheless, it is clear that the Rebbe understands that even the above Poskim only refer to one’s reading of his Aliyah and not of the entire Parsha

[31] Admur 282:5; 53:13 “A Katan may receive an Aliyah”; Michaber 282:3; Rambam Tefilla 12:17; Megillah 23a “Everyone counts for the seven Aliyos including a child” and Mishneh 24a “A child may read from the Torah and translate”; Yerushalmi Brachos 7b; See Hagahos Maimanis Tefilla 12:17 that if there are no Yisraeilim in the Minyan then one is to call up a child or woman

[32] M”A 225:4; See the following Poskim that a child is an invalid Baal Korei until Bar Mitzvah: Admur 282:5; M”A 282:6; Mishpat Tzedek 3:43; M”B 282:13; See in great length article of Rav Avraham Yitzchak of Mir, printed in Yagdil Torah N.Y. ibid, that the vast majority of Poskim, Rishonim and Achronim rule this wat including the Bahag, Rambam, Rash, Baal Hamaor, Milchamos, Semag, Rosh, Tur; See Tzemach Tzedek [Rav Meir Milameid] O.C. 35; Chidushim Megillah 3:6-3; Kneses Hagedola 282; Olas Tamid 282:3; Tosefes Shabbos 282:7; Kaf Hachaim 282:23; So rule regarding Megillah that a child is invalid: Michaber 689:2 based on Tana Kama in Megillah 19b and so rules: Rosh; Bahag; Levush; Bach; Olas Shabbos 689:3; Peri Chadash; According to this approach the Mishneh in Megillah 24a which states “A child may read from the Torah and translate” is interpreted to refer to a child getting an Aliyah and not to him reading from the Torah on behalf of the public.

[33] See the following Poskim that it is no longer the custom to give children an Aliyah until their Bar Mitzvah: Admur 282:7; M”A 282:6; Elya Raba 282:6; Tosefes Shabbos 282:7; Mateh Yehuda 282:6; M”B 282:12; Kaf Hachaim 282:24; See Radbaz 1:566 as explains Levush Serud on M”A ibid versus Machatzis Hashekel ibid if a child may be called up for Kohen

[34] Shaar Hatziyon 225:7

[35] Nitei Gavriel ibid

[36] Igros Kodesh 18:222; 20:118; 137

[37] See Igros Kodesh 18:222 that this custom was started fairly recently; 20:118 that this custom was never followed in the past; See previous footnotes that the seeming intent of this statement is that it was not customary for him to read his entire Parsha even in previous times

[38] Igros Kodesh 18:222 [In this letter, the Rebbe bemoans to the writer the fact that his son had read the entire Parsha, as customary, and do not invest his time for the more necessary preparations such as the adding of learning Torah.]

[39] Igros Kodesh 18:222

[40] Igros Kodesh 10:376

[41] Igros Kodesh 26:247; 25:169; 26:348, brought in Shulchan Menachem 3:345

[42] Igros Kodesh 4:95; Kunrtus Reshimos 5:33; Nitei Gavriel p. 56

[43]

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