The Bas Mitzvah – An Overview


By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.COM

Published in honor of the Bas Mitzvah of Yehudis Yocheved Levy!  Mazal Tov!

The Bas Mitzvah celebration has had an interesting history. Some communities celebrate the Bas Mitzvah quietly and in the home. In other communities, the standards are that they be celebrated in halls and must be catered affairs. Regardless of how they are celebrated, it would be worthwhile to get a background on what the Bas Mitzvah is all about.

Earlier Adulthood

The Gemorah (Niddah 45b) tells us that a girl becomes an adult at the age of twelve. According to the Ibn Ezra (Vayikrah 20:19), this tradition was handed down to us by Moshe from Har Sinai as were all the figures, numbers, weights and amounts (See Sukkah 5b).

A girl enters into adulthood a full year before a boy enters into adulthood in a bar mitzvah celebration. The reason for this is explained by the Talmud (Niddah 45b):

It is because Hashem placed more wisdom and understanding into women than into men.

This is derived from the pasuk (Bereishis 2:22), “Vayiven Hashem Elokim et hatzelah – And Hashem built the rib” – The word “Vayiven” has a double meaning – it means both “built” and “understanding.”

Origins of Bas Mitzvah Celebration

Some mistakenly say that the Bas Mitzvah celebration was invented by the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Mordecai Kaplan in 1922. This is not correct. A celebration for a Bas Mitzvah is mentioned in the Ben Ish Chai by Rabbi Yoseph Chaim (1883-1909) where he writes that the Bas Mitzvah should be a day of celebration. The Bas Mitzvah girl should wear a new outfit and recite a Shehecheyanu to celebrate her entrance into the “Ol Mitzvos”- the responsibility (and privilege) of observing Mitzvos.

So Kaplan actually took it from the Bas Mitzvah celebration of the Italian Jewish communities of Milan and Torrino. There, the girls would stand before the Aron Kodesh and recite special prayers that ended with a shehecheyanu blessing. The Rav of these communities then spoke and gave them a Bracha. A Seudah followed in the home of the girl.

Seudas Bas Mitzvah

There are many opinions about whether a Seudas Bas Mitzvah is considered a Seudas Mitzvah. Rabbi Yitzchok Nissim cites Rav Mussafya (1606-1675) that a Bas Mitzvah is indeed considered a Seudas Mitzvah.

This question was posed to Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal (Igros Moshe OC I #104) a number of times. In a letter to Rabbi Boruch Poupko dated the 11th of Shvat 5716 (January 25, 1956), Rav Moshe states that it is not considered a Seudas Mitzvah whatsoever and if he had the capacity he would abolish the custom for Bas Mitzvos and Bar Mitzvos as they does not increase anyone’s commitment to Torah and often lead to Chilul Shabbos. This, of course, was in the 1950’s.

In a letter written to Rabbi Meir Kahane hy”d when he was the Rabbi of a Howard Beach congregation, Rav Moshe Feinstein writes (Igros Moshe OC IV #36) that a Bas Mitzvah celebration should not be held in a synagogue – even if the synagogue was built with a condition, and even if it was held in the evening. He did write, however, that the Rabbi should only take a stand against it if it would not lead to any embarrassment of the parents and if taking the stand would not cause machlokes – argument.

In this second responsum, Rav Feinstein did suggest an alternative – that a Kiddush be sponsored instead. This, in fact, would be no different than sponsoring a Kiddush for any Simcha. In order to avoid conflict, Rav Moshe zatza; suggested that it is preferable to ensure that words of Torah be recited at the meal. The meal should not be held in a synagogue if possible. However, using a room adjacent to the sanctuary would be permitted.

On the other hand, Rabbi Yaakov Yechiel Weinberg has written (Sridei Aish Vol. III #93) that in our times, it is very appropriate to strengthen the religious faith of our daughters through the Bas Mitzvah ceremony.

The Blessing of Boruch ShePatrani

The blessing of Boruch ShePatrani is not recited for a Bas Mitzvah.. There are four reasons for this:

1] Since a daughter remains in her father’s home until marriage the obligations involved in raising a child continue further on until the point of marriage (see Kaf HaChaim 225:15).

2] Rav Yoseph Teumim in his Pri Magadim suggests an opinion that since the daughter’s obligation in Torah knowledge is action-based and not knowledge based, a father is exempt from teaching her and therefore does not recite the blessing (PMG Aishel Avrohom 225:5). He writes that even according to the opinion that the father is obligated in teaching her, the lesser amount of Mitzvos that she is obligated to perform does not necessitate his recitation of the blessing.

3] Rav Moshe Feinstein zatzal explains in a letter to Rabbi Zalman Uri of California dated the 9th of Iyar 5719 (IM OC Vol. II #97) that the blessing is not recited because it is not readily identifiable that a change took place. In regard to boys, the change is readily identifiable by virtue of them being included in Minyanim.

4] There is a view found in the Levush that the actual intent of the Patrani meOnsho shel zeh is the opposite understanding of the one that we have. In other words, Blessed be Hashem, who has exempted me from having my punishment meted out upon my children. Girls, however, would never have been included in it in the first place, since they would be affecting a third party – their future husbands. It would be wrong to affect a third party and therefore Hashem would not exact punishment on them. This then would remove the need to recite the Boruch ShePatrani.

As a parenthetic note, this position can only exist during a time of “idna derischa” where Hashem is in a period of Divine Anger against His people. Otherwise, this type of punishment would never be. (See Sukkas Dovid by Rabbi Dovid Kviat zt”l on Sefer D’varim, “Hester Panim.”)

After the Bas Mitzvah

Although one is exempt from doing Teshuvah upon aveiros (transgressions) that one did as a child, the Ramah (343:1) writes that one should accept upon oneself something as Teshuva and atonement for these aveiros. The pasuk in Mishlei (19:2), “Even without knowledge it is not good” applies to this case.

The main idea of a Bas Mitzvah and to celebrate it is that it is a period where another member of Klal Yisroel is brought into the responsibility of Mitzvos and can develop that special Dveikus and relationship with the Creator of the world.

The author can be reached at [email protected]


  1. כוהמנהג שיש נוהגים לעשות מסיבה חגיגית וסעודת הודאה ושמחה לבת מצוה, ביום מלאת לבת שתים עשרה שנה ויום אחד, הוא מנהג טוב והגון, ויש בזה מצוה לחיזוק החינוך לבנות ישראל ברוח ישראל סבא. וטוב שיאמרו שם דברי תורה ותשבחות להשי”ת. וברור מאד שיש לשמור בקפדנות על כללי הצניעות לפי דעת תורתינו הקדושה, וכמו שנאמר: עבדו את ה’ בשמחה וגילו ברעדה. ונכון שהאב יברך ”ברוך שפטרני מעונשה של זו” בלי שם ומלכות, כדרך שאומרים כן בנער שנעשה בר מצוה. [ילקוט יוסף ברכות עמוד תרז].

  2. 1. Iggros Moshe, OH, 4:36

    A Bas Mitzvah Celebration in the Synagogue.

    And the benefit that your wrote about, it appears that, quite the opposite, many Shabbos violations and other negative things will result from this. And even regarding sons, we have not seen any benefit from these celebrations as a way of bringing him closer to Torah and mitzvos. Even if regarding particular girl, in an exceptional case, you see that there would be a benefit – nevertheless, in the vast majority of cases it is the opposite – a negative. Therefore, you should distance this new thing of a bas mitzvah celebration, and not to encourage it, even if it does not lead to any debates or arguments…

    2. Iggros Moshe, OH, 1:104

    In the matter of a Bas Mitzvah.

    Regarding those who want to make a ceremony and celebration for the girls when they become bas mitzvah. Behold, one should not do this in a synagogue, regardless, even at night, because the synagogue is not a place to do optional, non-mitzvah matters, even if it was constructed with a stipulation. And this ceremony of the bas mitzvah is certainly only an optional matter and it is a matter of nonsense and there is no basis to allow it to be done in the synagogue. Certainly this is even more so since the source of this practice comes from the Reform and Conservative. Only if the father wants to make a celebration in his house is he allowed. But there is no basis to consider this a mitzvah matter or the meal a mitzvah meal, for it is nothing more than a birthday celebration.

    If I had the ability, in our country I would do away with the bar mitzvah celebration for boys, for it is well known that this celebration never brought any person closer to Torah and mitzvah, not even the bar mitzvah boy, and not even for a brief moment. Quite the opposite, in many places it brings about a violation of Shabbos and other transgressions. Nevertheless, what is already practiced here, and also comes from a mitzvah source, is difficult to do away with. But to innovate for girls something that is without any mitzvah basis – even just in the house – it would certainly be better to avoid this, although there is no prohibition. But to do so in the synagogue, even at night at a time when there are no services, is forbidden.

    3. Iggros Moshe, OH, 2:96

    Regarding your comments on my responsum regarding the bas
    mitzvah meal.

    What you were troubled about – why is there not a mitzvah in having a bas mitzvah meal when the girl becomes 12 years old, as there is for a boy, for a girl also becomes obligated in mitzvos at this point…

    What appears correct in my humble opinion is that the difference is because it is not discernable the practical (halachic) difference with a girl when she reaches (halachic) adulthood in contrast to when she was a (halachic) minor. It is not similar to a boy where this is very obvious – for now he can be part of a minyan and a grouping of three… But when it is not discernible there is no mitzvah to make a meal.

  3. In other words, while there is a basis in the Sefardic poskim and Italian mesorah to make a Bas Mitzva event, however, for Askenazim, there is no basis for making a Bas Mitzva event, certainly not “…the standards are that they be celebrated in halls and must be catered affairs.”

  4. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a prominent Orthodox posek, described the bat mitzvah celebration as “meaningless”, and of no greater halakhic significance than a birthday party. However, he reluctantly permitted it in homes, but not synagogues, as the latter would be construed as imitating Reform and Conservative customs; in any case, they do not have the status of seudat mitzvah.

    Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef holds that it is a seudat mitzvah.

    – people shouldn’t be inviting ‘all their friends’ to a bas mitzvah party even if it’s in their own homes, not to mention as a huge event in a shul. it should be severely limited to only passersby (ex. a friend who happened to be visiting or passing through by chance) or one or two close friends, as well as the family whomever is present.

    – having additional siblings even bothers come back from other places such as a yeshiva to attend their sister’s “bas mitzvah” also shouldn’t be a thing. they can congratulate whomever needs congratulating with words the next time they return. A bas mitzvah celebration is not important, and I hate those Jews that pretend that it is.

    only because the large and fancy “bas mitzvah celebration” is so prevalent in the orthodox world do we now have to clamp down on it and insist that it not be followed. By allowing this pattern to continue, we would be normalizing it and it would be presented to others as opposite but equal to a bar mitzvah.

    hashem punishes more for twisted/bad torah ideology than for the aveira that you are doing wrong.

    the same applies to everything else in the torah including polygamy, gay rights issues, the laws of warfare such as the fact that the torah allows for the deliberate bombing of enemy civilians, the presence of reform synagogues in our neighborhoods…..etc, and other things that “orthodox” jews today would for some reason find controversial. a jew’s ideology must always match that of hashem’s otherwise he is not halachically a jew and does not deserve to live. 卐 卐 卐

    someone who believes that kosher is not from hashem and in general doesn’t eat not-kosher unless he feels like it or bumps into it is WORSE than the jew who knows eating trief is against the torah but does so every second weekend because it’s cheaper or he has a yeitzer hara for whatever he’s eating.

    one will be punished for his transgressions, the other MUCH MUCH more.

    this is why having the right torah ideology and agreeing with hashem in all things theologically & philosophically is much more important than habitually-performing-the-mitzvot-because-it-doesn’t-currently-inconvenience-you-not-to.” <— these people are not orthodox jews because their current ways of thinking are incompatible with that of the torah, – and we should stop recognizing them as such.

  5. None of the answers about the berocho of shepatrani actually answer the question. Have been wandering about this question for some time. I geuss there is no answer…

  6. @Doc
    Bar Mitzvahs are way more significant than bas mitzvahs.
    When a boy becomes bar mitzvah, he is chayav in talmud torah, which women aren’t, they are chayav in tefillin, which women aren’t, they are chayav in all the mitzvos, while women are not chayav in most of the mitzvos. Only some.
    The Lubavitcher rebbe writes that a bar Mitzvah should be made just like a wedding, but bas mitzvahs should be a party in the house with classmates.
    It’s really a nebach that some rich parents make crazy expensive bas mitzvahs, it’s really a chaval and I feel bad for them that they feel the need to waste so much money on the wrong things.

  7. When we look at R Feinstein’s responsa, we need to see whether sociall reasons he cites are relevant. Lifestyles were changing in last 100 years faster than in previous 1,000.
    Some seem to be outdated: leading to shabbos violations.
    Others – not. Not doing it in the shul itself seems to be timeless.
    “not bringing anyone clser to Torah” is a great criterion. Maybe this should be looked upon. Important that it should be not just for a specific event, but in general for the (specific) community. Maybe making it an inspiring low-key event for women and peers would work?

  8. Some observations: Note that some girls’ yeshivas, in recent years, have instituted a bat-mitzva dinner for the entire 7th grade class. While a girl is not mekabel as many mitzvot at age 12 as a boy is on his bar-mitzva, it is still appropriate to acknowledge the event. It is a very nice way to mark the occasion, and the dinner includes a few speeches and divrei Torah. Also, by setting a celebration with the class, the individual families are less inclined to yield to pressure and create a celebration mimicking a bar-mitzva seudah. Parents, and sometimes siblings and grandparents may be included depending on the size of the class and the size of the venue.
    I don’t mind reminding the girls that their big occasion will be a wedding, when they will truly become responsible for all of the mitzvot incumbent on an adult Jewish woman. But since that will take place at some indefinite future time, the class bat-mitzva celebration is a fine acknowledgement of their new mature status.

  9. Having recently researched the significance of a bas mitzva vs. bar mitzva recently, I really appreciated Rabbi Hoffman’s article. He did a wonderful job summarizing the halachic sources from different perspectives. To those who are looking to Reb Moishe Feinstein’s zt”l responsa as the source for not having a bas mitzva celebration, pay attention that he writes that if he had his way he would do away with the bar mitzva celebrations as well. Why? Because they do nothing for bringing any person closer to Torah and mitzva…While this responsa was written in the 1950s it holds true today. How often is money thrown for lavish bar mitzva celebrations where more time was spent planning the event than preparing the boy and exciting him about the meaning of becoming a full-fledged member of klal Yisrael??? There might not be a question of chilul Shabbos but do we have our priorities straight?

    We should be exciting our children – sons and daughters alike – about the milestone they are achieving as a ben/bas Yisrael. If you calculate the number of mitzvos for which women are responsible, you will find that they are in the hundreds. If we do not show our daughters that we are happy and excited that they are m’chuyavos in mitzvos how then do we expect them to them to grow up to be akeres habayis sh’hee ikar habayis??? I never understood the attitude that hakpada in mitzvos [and as such, knowing halachos] is a male thing and isn’t relevant to females.

    The Lubavitcher Rebbe was quoted by someone who responded to the article. The Rebbe also said that in today’s world where women are professionals, we must make a conscious effort to show the girls/women that they are valued from a yiddishkeit perspectivem – in fact, first-class citizens. This might involve things which in previous generations were not common in girls’ education. Hence, in Chabad schools girls are taught texts that historically in Bais Yaakov we were not (including certain mishnayos) and girls and women also go out to mivtzoim, not just men.

    We live in a generation where our Torah values are challenged every day by the Western values. We, as women, say every morning sh’targileynu b’sorasecha v’dabkeynu b’mitzvosecha, too. We daven that Hashem should make his Torah familiar to us so that we cleave to His mitzvos. This, so that every day, maybe multiple times a day we make the conscious decision to go the Torah way; unapologetically, uncompromisingly we chose to continue on the path of Torah and mitzvos.
    One of our generation’s other challenges is our children – are we exciting them enough about Torah and mitzvos or is it lost as the primary value in our homes? Boys and girls ALIKE have to be raised in an environment that values and cherishes the Torah way. This is something that children absorb from the atmosphere in the home. But the atmosphere is created by us – the parents. Even if we like nice things, it should always be clear what our #1 value is in the hierarchy of values, and it should be especially clear to our children and reinforced by our actions.

    Back to the bas mitzva girls…we must be m’chabev mitzvos on our children and part of that is showing them that we are excited about their becoming a full fledged member of klal Yisrael – boys and girls alike. Because THIS is the meaning of a bas/bar mitzva. Isn’t this what we are celebrating??? It needs to be a celebration where the message is clear – we are happy and the girl, as well as each guest is inspired about our message – cleaving to Hashem’s mitzvos. Who said that this is mutually exclusive from having an esthetically prepared meal with those who are most meaningful to the girl [not necessarily all of the parents’ hundreds of friends…]?

    Mine was a shalosh seudos for my classmates and family. But what do I remember most? My parents’ excitement, especially my mother’s, leading up to the birthday. In the weeks leading up, she reviewed with me the mitzvos which a women is m’chuyeves. This was the basis for my dvar Torah. I felt that this was a special day for me. Regardless of the posek you follow – the message is clear across the sources Rabbi Hoffman cites. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we make the girl feel individually special as she marks this halachic milestone and we do it in a way that brings simcha to the girl and Torahdik inspiration to all.