B'nei Mitzvah Special Terms & Vocabulary
Bar/Bat Mitzvah Vocab & Special Terms
Aliyah: one of the eight chunks of Torah read on a Shabbat morning. One person chants each aliyah, and the same person may take the honor of saying the blessings before and after the reading. In many cases, a different person takes the honor of saying the blessings.
Ark: known in Hebrew as Aron Kodesh. This is the tall, decorative cabinet in which we keep our sacred Torah scrolls. It is opened twice during the Shabbat morning service to remove, and then return, the Torah scrolls before and after they are used for chanting.
Bar Mitzvah: literally, “son of commandment”. The stage at which a Jewish boy is considered having reached maturity and responsibility for Jewish observances and commitments; this occurs on the 13th birthday. Also may refer to the celebration of a boy having reached this stage. Sometimes used in the passive (i.e. “I was bar-mitzvahed”).
Bat Mitzvah: literally, “daughter of commandment”. The stage at which a Jewish girl is considered having reached maturity and responsibility for Jewish observances and commitments; this occurs on the 13th birthday (and in some traditions, the 12th birthday). Also may refer to the celebration of a girl having reached this stage. Sometimes used in the passive (i.e. “I was bat-mitzvahed”).
Bimah: literally, “stage”. The area up in the front of a sacred space, sometimes a raised platform. Ritual leaders and Torah readers stand in or on the bimah while doing their assigned parts in the service.
D’var Torah: literally, “word of Torah”. A speech in the form of a sermon that, in this case, is both crafted and delivered by the bar/bat mitzvah linked to the sacred texts chanted that same morning.
Gabbaim: volunteers who help facilitate the Shabbat morning service, handing out honors and guiding people to the bimah at appropriate times. This is also the title we give to the two people who stand at the sides of the Torah reader whenever Torah is being chanted.
Haftarah: selection from reading of the books of the Prophets (Nevi’im), thematically linked to parsha (see Parsha below).
Maftir: the eighth aliyah on a Shabbat morning. The honor of saying blessings before and after the maftir is always given to the person who will read the haftarah.
Parsha: the portion of the Torah scroll chanted on a Shabbat morning. Typically this is the source material for Torah teaching on Shabbat morning.
Pesukei D’Zimra: literally, “verses of song”. The very first part of the Shabbat morning service, typically lasting 25-30 minutes.
Shaharit: the primary service on Shabbat morning, including Shema and Amidah.