The term bar (for boys) or bat (for girls) mitzvah, properly translated means “someone obligated to observe the commandments.” When a boy or girl reaches the age of 13 (as early as 12 for girls), s/he has an adult’s religious obligations and status. S/he can be called to the Torah and is now personally obligated to live a Jewish life, with all its ritual and ethical demands. In every sense, the bar/bat mitzvah is a beginning, not an end. Judaism emphasizes the intellectual maturity of covenantal behavior: prayer, study, and personal obligations.
The term bar/bat mitzvah has a dual connotation. Becoming a bar/bat mitzvah permanently changes a person for the rest of his/her life; it denotes the ceremony marking that milestone in life (a single event occurring on a specific date). Secondly, and more importantly, it connotes the status of the individual. All Jewish adults are b’nai mitzvah, the people of the Torah, bound by its precepts, holy teachings, and personal responsibilities.
For more information and Beth Sholom B’nai Israel’s bar mitzvah requirements, read our Bar Mitzvah Guide.