Welcome to Joshua's Bar Mitzvah Homepage.

We will celebrate Josh's becoming a Bar Mitzvah during the regular Shabbat (Saturday) morning. "Bar Mitzvah" means "son of the commandment." According to our tradition, a child takes an adult role in observing the commandments and rituals at the age of 13. In Judiasm, the commandments deal both with the relationship of a person to G-d, and with the relationship of a person to other people and to the community as a whole.

The service is a standard Shabbat service with the distinguishing feature that Joshua will lead part of the service and speak about his Torah reading, and chant his Haftorah (a selection from the book of Prophets related to his Torah reading) In doing so, Joshua will be making a public statement that he is ready to assume the responsibilities of a Bar Mitzvah.

The Torah is a continuous parchment scroll of the Five Books of Moses. Torah means "to teach" and serves to instruct people about ethics, morals and religious principles. The Torah is read on during the Shabbat service as well as a couple days during the week and on several holy days. It takes a full year to read the entire five books, after which the process starts again. Those who have become a Bar or Bat Mitzvah are privileged to recite the blessings of the Torah. As a special honor, several of family members and friends are called to recite the Torah blessings or to read from the Torah during the service.

Customs and Traditions


The Shema also commands us to bind the words to our hands and between our eyes. We do this by laying tefillin, that is, by binding to our arms and foreheads a leather pouch containing scrolls of Torah passages. Like the mezuzah, tefillin are meant to remind us of G-d's commandments. At weekday morning services, one case is tied to the arm, with the scrolls at the biceps and leather straps extending down the arm to the hand, then another case is tied to the head, with the case on the forehead and the straps hanging down over the shoulders. Appropriate blessings are recited during this process. The tefillin are removed at the conclusion of the morning services. The tefillin is not worn on Shabbat.


A four-cornered shawl called a tallitis worn by adult men and women who have become Bar/Bat Mitzvahduring morning services. There is a omplex procedure for tying the knots of the tzitzit, filled with religious and numerological significance.


The most commonly known and recognized piece of Jewish garb is actually the one with the least religious significance. The word yarmulke (usually, but not really correctly, pronounced yammica) is Yiddish. According to Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish, it comes from a Tartar word meaning skullcap. According to some Orthodox and Chasidic rabbis I know, it comes from the Aramaic words "yerai malka" (fear of or respect for The King). The Hebrew word for this head covering is kippah (pronounced key-pah).

It is an ancient practice for Jews to cover their heads during prayer. This probably derives from the fact that in Eastern cultures, it is a sign of respect to cover the head (the custom in Western cultures is the opposite: it is a sign of respect to remove one's hat). Thus, by covering the head during prayer, one showed respect for G-d. In addition, in ancient Rome, servants were required to cover their heads while free men did not; thus, Jews covered their heads to show that they were servants of G-d. In medieval times, Jews covered their heads as a reminder that G-d is always above them. Whatever the reason given, however, covering the head has always been regarded more as custom rather than a commandment.