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Publisher's Foreword

The Significance of a Bar Mitzvah

Preparations for the Bar Mitzvah

Bar Mitzvah Customs

Tefillin

The Maamar

Sichos Kodesh

Reshimos of Bar Mitzvah

Letters From The Rebbe

The Bar Mitzvah of the Rebbeim

Appendix

Yalkut Bar Mitzvah
An Anthology of Laws and Customs of a Bar Mitzvah in the Chabad Tradition

Chapter 1
The Significance of a Bar Mitzvah

by Rabbi Nissan Dovid Dubov

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  Publisher's ForewordPreparations for the Bar Mitzvah  

The time of Bar Mitzvah is a richly celebrated passage of life. Presented here is a brief selection of the Rebbe's writings describing the significance of a Bar Mitzvah as illuminated in the Chabad tradition.

The Day On Which The Yetzer Tov Enters

The main entry of the holy soul in man is at the age of 13 years and one day (and the age of 12 for a female), for it is at this age that they are biblically obligated to keep the commandments and that they become liable to punishment for their sins. - Shulchan Aruch HaRav

The Midrash[1] states that it is on the day of the Bar Mitzvah that the Yetzer Tov is united with the person. The Alter Rebbe[2] amplifies this notion by explaining that although the G-dly soul has entered with the circumcision, and continues to be manifest throughout the years of education, it enters in the most complete manner only on the occasion of Bar Mitzvah. It is from this point on that the Jew is able to wage war with his Yetzer Hara and set out to conquer the small city[3] - the body.[4] How is it possible to be victorious in this battle? The Sages[5] have given the answer - "G-d created the Yetzer Hara and He created the Torah as an antidote."[6]

Accordingly, the Yetzer Hara really has first claim over the body for he entered the body first. He claims he is the firstborn! In order to free oneself of the yetzer, one must for a certain period separate oneself from the outside world, and totally confine oneself within the four cubits of a shul, a Yeshiva or Beis HaMidrash and warm oneself with the love of Hashem, the love of Torah and the love of a fellow Jew.[7]

When a boy becomes Bar Mitzvah he accepts upon himself "ol mitzvos" the yoke of mitzvos. The word "ol" is chosen because it denotes a form of acceptance that transcends all reason and rationale. Only such an acceptance of mitzvos will endure.[8]

The Bar Mitzvah Simchah

"On that day (the day of Bar Mitzvah), it is an obligation on the righteous to make a simchah similar to that on the day of a wedding."[9]

There are four aspects to the simchah of the Bar Mitzvah.

  1. The simchah of the boy - that he has reached the age of obligation of mitzvos. This is of great merit, as the Mishnah states, "Rabbi Chananiah ben Akashia says: The Holy One Blessed be He, wished to confer merit upon Israel; therefore He gave them Torah and mitzvos in abundance."

  2. The family simchah - of the parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters - having the merit of raising the boy and in turn them seeing true Yiddishe Nachas from him.

  3. The simchah of the Jewish people - at having yet another fully obligated Jew join their ranks.

  4. The simchah of Hashem - since every single Jew is a child of G-d, as it states, "My son, My firstborn, Israel," it follows that when there is a simchah relating to an individual, a family or the entire Jewish people, this brings immense joy to their Father in Heaven - to G-d.[10]

This extra dimension of the simchah of G-d in return adds in G-d's blessings to all Israel, and in particular to the one that was the cause of the simchah - the Bar Mitzvah boy himself.[11] All Jews are dependent on each other. It follows therefore that all Jews should rejoice in this simchah, for when another worker is added to the team, the workload is lightened and the workers rejoice. So too, the simchah of a Bar Mitzvah lies in the fact that another worker has been recruited to the ranks of the workforce.[12] It is interesting to note that in Hebrew, the "age of mitzvos" is called "gil mitzvos" and the word "gil" is associated with the word "gilah" meaning rejoicing and happiness.

The True Birthday Of A Jew

The day of the Bar Mitzvah signals the transition of the boy from a state where he is obligated only for reasons of education to keep the mitzvos into a state where he is fully obligated to keep the mitzvos. In this sense the day of the Bar Mitzvah is his true birthday, the day on which he becomes a true emissary of G-d charged with fulfilling the commandments.[13] The word mitzvah in addition to meaning a commandment also has the meaning "connection." It therefore follows that on the day of Bar Mitzvah, a true connection with G-d has been established.[14]

It follows, since the boy is now obligated to keep the mitzvos, and "G-d does not make unreasonable demands of His creations", that he must have been given all the powers necessary to fulfil his obligation. This thought should strengthen the boy, in the knowledge that nothing can prevent him from keeping Hashem's mitzvos - he has only to summon up the will to do so.[15]

"MATTAN TORAH" - THE GIVING OF THE TORAH

The day of Bar Mitzvah can be considered an individual's "Mattan Torah,"[16] the day on which G-d fully entrusts and empowers him to keep the mitzvos. The obligation to keep mitzvos comes with the power enabling him to keep the mitzvos - if he has been commanded to keep them, he surely must have the ability and potential to keep them.[17] This includes doing the mitzvos with joy and gladness of heart. Following the principle that "one mitzvah draws another," the day of Bar Mitzvah is the first day of keeping mitzvos which will draw other mitzvos ad infinitum. It can therefore be seen as the first in a long chain of mitzvos - the beginning of an endless process.[18]

An Additional Member Of Klal Yisrael

On the day of Bar Mitzvah the boy joins the ranks of Klal Yisrael. Especially in light of the ruling of the Rambam, that each additional thought speech and action can sway the scales of merit and bring salvation and deliverance, it follows that each additional Bar Mitzvah, with its accompanying mitzvos, sways the scales of merit for the Bar Mitzvah boy and indeed for Klal Yisrael and the whole world.[19]

It should be noted that the number 13 is numerically equivalent to the word "echad" (sjt) one. This demonstrates that at the age of Bar Mitzvah, the boy becomes one with his people, united in their shlichus of making the world a Dirah b'tachtonim, an abode for the Divine.[20]

This unity is further demonstrated by the fact that, at the age of Bar Mitzvah, the boy may be counted as a member of the minyan in order to create a holy congregation.[21]

The Dedication Of A New Sanctuary

"Make for Me a Sanctuary so that I may dwell among them,"[22] - in each one of them.[23] The heart of each Jew constitutes an inner sanctuary. The dedication of this sanctuary takes place on the day of Bar Mitzvah, when he becomes obligated to keep all the mitzvos. It follows therefore that on this day there is an extra flow of blessing from G-d - similar to the additional sacrifices that accompanied the dedication of the Tabernacle and the Temple.[24]

A New Mazal

The day of Bar Mitzvah signals a change in the mode of learning and mitzvah performance. It follows that the reward received from G-d is also of another order and that the boy receives new powers, both physically and spiritually.[25] In fact, he receives a new mazal on this day.[26]

Illuminating The Darkness

A Bar Mitzvah boy must always have in mind that:

  1. G-d created the heavens and earth and is therefore the one and only baal habayis over the world.

  2. The portion of the world granted to each person rests in a state of darkness and it is the responsibility of the individual to illuminate it and change it for the good.

  3. The first stage in avodah is the recognition that through learning Torah (which is the word of G-d as repeatedly emphasized in the Torah by the phrase "And G-d said..."), and keeping mitzvos, (which are the will of G-d) one may illuminate the world, as the verse states "a mitzvah is the candle and Torah light."

In this way he can turn darkness into light, as in the words of the Zohar, "to turn darkness into light and bitterness into sweetness."

Keeping these thoughts to the forefront of his mind will help to ensure that the Bar Mitzvah boy walks in G-d's ways and does righteousness and justice.

Ahavas Yisrael

Since the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael is a great principle of the Torah, it follows that on the day of Bar Mitzvah, the day one becomes obligated to keep the mitzvos, and particularly the principle mitzvah, there accordingly has to be be a special emphasis on the mitzvah of Ahavas Yisrael.[27]

What definitely gives G-d much joy is the spectacle of a Jew who has just become Bar Mitzvah dedicating his first actions to the helping of another Jew - even a Jew whom he never saw before in his life - through the giving of tzedakah or by helping an institution. Doing such an act with gladness of heart adds in G-d's blessings to the Bar Mitzvah.[28]

The Bar Mitzvah boy should also try to persuade others of his age to accept upon themselves the yoke of mitzvos.[29]

The Tefillin Campaign

Since the entire Torah is compared to the mitzvah of tefillin,[30] and in the light of the aforementioned, that the boy should try to persuade others to keep mitzvos, it follows that every Bar Mitzvah boy should actively involve himself in the Tefillin Campaign (see Chapter on Tefillin) using his new tefillin not just for himself but to follow the Rebbe's directive and put on tefillin with another Jew.

A Chassidisher Boy

The Bar Mitzvah boy should accept upon himself to keep mitzvos, not only in strict accordance with the rules of the Torah, but he should also accept to do them in a beautiful way, above and beyond the letter of the law[31] - middas chassidus - all being permeated with the light and warmth of chassidus.[32]

All Israel Are Deemed Kosher

"Better is the day of death than the day of birth."[33] The reasoning behind this statement is that on the day of death, it is known retrospectively what kind of person he was, whereas on the day of birth his life remains uncharted. We therefore prefer the retrospective knowledge available on the day of death to the uncertainty of the day of birth.[34]

This being the case, what is the great simchah of the Bar Mitzvah, since we do not know the direction the boy's life will take? Furthermore it is precisely on this day that the boy becomes obligated in mitzvos and liable for punishment for his misdeeds. Why rejoice, then, in an uncertain future?

One cannot suggest that this simchah is reserved only for great tzaddikim such as Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and his son, of whom it is said,[35] "I have seen men of elevation and they are but a few" - in whose case one could argue that Rashbi foresaw the great righteousness of his son R. Elazar which would justify a simchah. However, this cannot be the case for the commentary Magen Avraham[36] quotes the simchah of Rashbi as the source for everybody to make a simchah on the day of the Bar Mitzvah - a simchah as great as that on the day of a wedding!

One must therefore say that this simchah is based on the principle,[37] "All Israel are deemed kosher" that is, we presume that most definitely this boy will keep Torah and mitzvos and we rejoice in the fact that he is now of an age to become obligated in the mitzvos.[38]

Brings Closer The Redemption

The Mishnah in Avos states: "There is no free man except for one who engages in the study of Torah." From here we may derive that Torah is the key to freedom from one's own evil inclination - a personal redemption. It follows that the day of Bar Mitzvah, which is the day the boy becomes obligated to study Torah and keep the mitzvos, is therefore a day of personal redemption.[39] In fact, the transition from keeping mitzvos for reasons of chinuch to that of becoming obligated to keep them, may be compared to the movement from Golus to Geulah, for the keeping of mitzvos in Golus is only a "Chinuch" when compared to the full keeping of mitzvos at the time of Geulah.[40] One could even go as far to say that in Golus, the entire Jewish people keep mitzvos like children, and when Mashiach comes we will celebrate our national Bar Mitzvah.[41]

In a wider perspective, this additional input enhances the general mitzvah input of the entire Jewish people and surely hastens and brings closer the redemption through our righteous Mashiach.[42]

It should be noted that in the last Yechidus (prior to the revelation of Mashiach) which the Rebbe gave to Bar Mitzvah boys - on the 17th of Shvat 5752 - the Rebbe demanded that the boys use all their energy, "to bring the days of Mashiach."

A Day To Make A Request

The Talmud[43] relates that King David died on the festival of Shavuos. The books Tvuos Shor and Binyan Ariel state that since "the A-lmighty completes the days of the righteous exactly, from day to day" - for we find that many righteous people died on the very day that they were born - it follows that Shavuos is also the birthday of King David.

On the verse in Tehillim 2:7, "You are My son, I have begotten you this day", the Zohar[44] comments that this is the verse King David composed on the day of his Bar Mitzvah.[45]

In addition to that which at the Bris Milah the Nefesh Elokis entered the body, as the Alter Rebbe states in the beginning of his Shulchan Aruch, that is only the level of nefesh, ruach and neshamah. Thereafter, however, if one's mode of service is correct and as it should be, at the moment of Bar Mitzvah there is also drawn down the level of Atzilus.

This is the reason why Rabbi Shimon made a feast and simchah when Rabbi Elazar his son became Bar Mitzvah, a simchah similar to that of a wedding.

Since, as stated above, Shavuos is King David's birthday, it follows that the Bar Mitzvah of King David was also on Shavuos and the verse, "You are My son etc.," was spoken on Shavuos.

Since King David wrote this verse in Tehillim, a book read by every Jew, each according to his level (and particularly following the directive of my father-in-law the Previous Rebbe that one should recite the Book of Tehillim as it is divided into the days of the month - and this institution is applicable to all - and even those who recite the Tehillim in a different order should also recite them as they are divided monthly - and in fact this mode of reciting Tehillim is becoming more and more widespread), it therefore follows that all the things that King David said in Tehillim for Knesses Yisrael are openly revealed to each Jew according to his level, including this verse and its contents, "You are My son, I have begotten you this day, Only ask it of Me and I will make nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession."

The sense of the verse is: what we will ask from G-d He will fulfill - each Jew his heart's requests.[46]

After Bar Mitzvah

It should be emphasized that all the preparations to the Bar Mitzvah, and the entire chinuch until Bar Mitzvah, are only preparatory. After Bar Mitzvah begins the real chinuch: of each day surpassing the last; of "ascending in matters of holiness" with deeper understanding in the learning of Torah and beautification in mitzvos.[47]

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Koheles Rabbah 4:13.

  2. (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim, Mahadura Kamma 4 (end). See Tehillim Yahel Or of Tzemach Tzedek, ch. 2:7 (p. 11).

  3. (Back to text) See Tanya, ch. 9.

  4. (Back to text) Nedarim 32b. See commentary of Rosh, ibid.

  5. (Back to text) Bava Basra 16a.

  6. (Back to text) Igros Kodesh, Vol. I, p. 151.

  7. (Back to text) Ibid., Vol. IV, p. 303

  8. (Back to text) Ibid., Vol. XII, p. 228.

  9. (Back to text) Zohar Chadosh, Bereishis 15:4. See also 10:3,4 ibid., and Zohar, Vol. II, p. 98a. See Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVI, p. 103.

    The Zohar continues: "R. Shimon Bar Yochai invited the leading scholars of the Mishnah to partake of a great festive meal which he had arranged... He was very happy... because (as he explained), "On this day, a holy and exalted soul descended... into my son R. Elazar, and on this joyous occasion, I shall experience supreme joy."

  10. (Back to text) Yechidus, 15 Tammuz 5745.

  11. (Back to text) Ibid.

  12. (Back to text) Sichah of Shabbos Parshas Vayakhel Pekudei 5715.

  13. (Back to text) Yechidus, 16 Tammuz 5747.

  14. (Back to text) Yechidus, 19 Adar 5745.

  15. (Back to text) Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVIII, p. 12.

  16. (Back to text) Yechidus, 24 Nissan 5747; 17 Shvat 5742. The individual's Mattan Torah also speedens the giving of the Torah in time to come, when "a new Torah will come forth from Me" in the days of Mashiach - see Yechidus, 11 Sivan 5750.

  17. (Back to text) See Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVIII, p. 12

  18. (Back to text) Yechidus, 24 Nissan 5747.

  19. (Back to text) Yechidus, 2 Cheshvan 5752.

  20. (Back to text) Yechidus, 20 Adar 5751. See also Yechidus, 20 Kislev 5752. In Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XX, p. 578, the Rebbe adds that this additional unity in the Jewish people and in Torah also brings to "Shleimus Ha'aretz" the entirety of Eretz Yisrael.

  21. (Back to text) Yechidus, 15 Tammuz 5746.

  22. (Back to text) Shmos 25:9.

  23. (Back to text) See Maamar Basi LeGani 5710.

  24. (Back to text) Yechidus, 13 Shvat 5746.

  25. (Back to text) Yechidus, 25 Tishrei 5750.

  26. (Back to text) Ibid.

  27. (Back to text) Yechidus, 16 Tammuz 5744.

  28. (Back to text) Yechidus, 15 Tammuz 5745.

  29. (Back to text) Yechidus, 9 Sivan 5746; 17 Shvat 5742. See also Hisvaadiyus 5748, Vol. II, p. 94; 5750, Vol. II, p. 248.

  30. (Back to text) Kiddushin 35a.

  31. (Back to text) Yechidus, 28 Nissan 5750.

  32. (Back to text) Yechidus, 24 Kislev 5745.

  33. (Back to text) Koheles 7:1.

  34. (Back to text) See Koheles Rabbah 7:1.

  35. (Back to text) Sukkah 45b.

  36. (Back to text) Orach Chaim 225:4. See further Sefer HaSichos 5748, Vol. II, p. 403 footnotes 63-4.

  37. (Back to text) Rambam, Hilchos Kiddush HaChodesh 2:2.

  38. (Back to text) Sichah of Acharon Shel Pesach 5748 - Sefer HaSichos 5748, Vol. II, pp. 402-3.

  39. (Back to text) Yechidus, 15 Tammuz 5746.

  40. (Back to text) Yechidus, 16 Adar 5747. See also Yechidus, 22 Kislev 5746.

  41. (Back to text) Yechidus, 15 Shvat 5751.

  42. (Back to text) Yechidus, 15 Tammuz 5749. See also Yechidus of 19 Adar 5745 that each additional member of Klal Yisrael adds to the "Kahal Gadol" which will be assembled when Mashiach arrives.

  43. (Back to text) Talmud Yerushalmi, Beitzah 2:4.

  44. (Back to text) Vol. II, p. 98a. See Or HaChamah explanation of R. Chaim Vital, ibid. Notes of Tzemach Tzedek on Tehillim 2:7.

  45. (Back to text) King David said, "I am obliged to proclaim that G-d said to me, 'You are My son, I have begotten you this day'," meaning that from the level of "Ani Tefillah" was drawn a holy soul. Likkutei Sichos, ibid.

  46. (Back to text) Likkutei Sichos, Vol. II, pp. 568-9.

  47. (Back to text) Yechidus, 16 Adar 5747.


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