Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Bar Mitzvah Blessing - "Baruch Sheptarani"

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin

The "Baruch Sheptarani" blessing which a father recites upon his son reaching Bar Mitzvah is unique among the blessings which are reserved for distinctive occasions.[1] This blessing is essentially the father's declaration-of-release from any further responsibility for his son's wrongdoings. For his first thirteen years, a boy is under the spiritual aegis and responsibility of his parents, but from his Bar-Mitzvah onwards, he is an independent man in the eyes of God. As we will see, the "Baruch Sheptarani" is of interesting origin and development.

Click here to read moreThe Torah teaches that when a boy reaches thirteen he begins to mold for himself a reputation and his character traits are then clearly distinguishable. It was at this age that Yaakov turned to the path of Torah and Eisav turned to the path of idolatry.[2] From here the Midrash derives that a father is to recite the "Baruch Sheptarani" at his son's Bar Mitzvah as from this time onwards a child is independently going to pursue the paths he chooses.[3]

As a general rule only blessings which originate in the Talmud are to be deemed official and authoritative.[4] As such, since the "Baruch Sheptarani" blessing originates in the Midrash and not in the Talmud, some authorities suggest that it be recited without directly mentioning God's name.[5] Furthermore, there is reason to believe that reciting this blessing was never intended to be obligatory, but rather, optional or advisory in nature.[6] There is also a view that God's name should be omitted from the blessing out of consideration that the father may not have properly raised his son and is therefore unworthy to even recite it at all.[7] Other authorities dismiss these concerns and rule that the blessing is to be recited with God's name just like all others.[8] Yet others favor the compromise of reciting the blessing, along with God's name, but in Aramaic, rather than in the original Hebrew.[9]

The blessing is commonly recited after the Bar-Mitzvah boy has had his first Aliya to the Torah[10] though some authorities suggest that it be recited after the boy has led a service in the synagogue.[11] Some fathers postpone reciting the blessing until the Shabbat following the Bar-Mitzva day.[12] There are also those with the custom to recite the blessing when the Bar-Mitzvah boy dons his Tefillin for the first time after turning thirteen.[13] There is also a view that the blessing should be recited at the Bar-Mitzvah meal.[14] In some communities, the "Baruch Sheptarani" blessing was actually not recited at a boy's Bar-Mitzvah, but rather, it was deferred until he turned twenty.[15] The recitation of the blessing is also seen as an official mechanism for publicly informing the community that one's son has become Bar-Mitzvah.[16]

A father may recite this blessing at the Bar-Mitzvah of his adopted son.[17] In the event that a Bar-Mitzvah boy's father has passed away the blessing may be recited by a grandfather.[18] It is not customary for the blessing to ever be recited by a mother or grandmother.[19] In the event of twins celebrating their Bar-Mitzvah, the blessing is recited for each boy separately.[20] The Bar-Mitzvah boy need not actually be present with the father recites the "Baruch Sheptarani" nor is the presence of a minyan truly essential.[21] It is interesting to note that hosting an elaborate meal in honor of a Bar-Mitzvah is an essential component of the cermeony.[22]

The blessing is generally not recited upon a girl reaching her Bat Mitzvah. This is because the blessing is directly related to a father's educational responsibilities towards his son. It is also noted that the halacha specifically states that the blessing is to be recited for one's "son", which can be understood to indirectly exclude daughters. Indeed, there is actually no true obligation for parents to educate their daughters, though it is highly recommended.[23] It appears, therefore, that this blessing has little relevance to the spiritual development of a girl.[24]

Nevertheless, other authorities argue that although there may not be an official obligation to educate girls, in our day and age even girls receive a proper Torah education. In fact, there are halachic authorities who insist that the obligation to educate one's children to keep mitzvot applies equally for sons and daughters.[25] According to this approach the blessing may be recited for one's daughter, as well.[26]


[1] O.C. 225:2
[2] Bereishit 25:27;Rashi
[3] Bereishit Rabba 63:10
[4] Darkei Moshe O.C. 225
[5] Rema O.C. 225:2, Bnei Banim 2:18
[6] Cited in: www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/sinay/baruh-2.htm
[7] Bnei Banim 2:18. Also, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch related that Rabbi Schneur Zalman did make this blessing reciting G-d's name upon the Bar-Mitzvahh of his son....For more on Chabad and "Baruch Sheptarani" see:www.sichosinenglish.org/books/bar-mitzvah/04.htm#n32
[8] Gra O.C. 225:3, Chayei Adam 65:3, Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 61:5, Aruch Hashulchan 225:4, Siddur Baal Hatanya,Tashbetz 390. Note: There are other blessings as well which do not originate in the Talmud but have been accepted as all others, such as the morning blessing "sheasa li kol tzarki" among others.
[9] Leket Yosher O.C. p.90
[10] Magen Avraham 225:2
[11] Mishna Berura 225:6
[12] Piskei Teshuvot 225:6
[13] Moroccan custom cited in: www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/sinay/baruh-2.htm
[14] Divrei Malkiel 4
[15] Cited at: http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/sinay/baruh-2.htm
[16] Kaf Hachaim 225:10
[17] Pri Megadim O.C. 225:20
[18] Maharsham 8:33, cited in Piskei Teshuvot 225:4
[19] Piskei Teshuvot 225:4
[20] Piskei Teshuvot 225:4
[21] Piskei Teshuvot 225:6
[22] Mishna Berura 225:6
[23] Nazir 28b
[24] Pri Megadim Eishel Avraham 225:5
[25] Tosfot Yesheinim Yoma 82a, cited in: http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/kitveyet/sinay/baruh-2.htm
[26] Yabia Omer 6:29

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