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Literally, “son of the Commandment”; a boy who has reached the age of thirteen and is expected to accept adult religious responsibilities. The female equivalent of Bar Mitzvah is called Bat Mitzvah. This “coming of age” is the occasion for a ritual in the synagogue, where on the first Sabbath of his fourteenth year, the boy is called for the first time to read from the Torah and the prophets. It is a joyous occasion, accompanied by gifts for the bar mitzvah boy from friends and family. Traditionally, the Bar Mitzvah boy delivers a learned speech. Though the Bar Mitzvah is usually observed on the Sabbath, it may, in fact, take place any other day of the week when the Torah is read at the synagogue, i.e. Monday, Thursday, the New Moon. The beginnings of this ceremony are ancient. References to the custom are found as early as the 5th and 6th centuries. (See also Confirmation.)

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