History of the Jews in Georgia
Georgian Jews are one of the oldest communities in Georgia, tracing their migration into the country during the Babylonian captivity in 6th century BC. Prior to Georgia's annexation by Russia, the 2,600-year history of the Georgian Jews was marked by an total absence of antisemitism and a visible assimilation in the Georgian language and culture; the Georgian Jews were culturally distinct from neighboring Mountain Jews. They were traditionally a separate group to the Ashkenazi Jews in Georgia, who arrived following the Russian annexation of Georgia; as a result of a major emigration wave in the 1990s, the vast majority of Georgian Jews now live in Israel, with the world's largest community living in the city of Ashdod. The Georgian Jews have traditionally lived separately, not only from the surrounding Georgian people, but from the Ashkenazi Jews in Tbilisi, who had different practices and language; the community, which numbered about 80,000 as as the 1970s, has emigrated to Israel, the United States, the Russian Federation and Belgium.
As of 2004, only about 13,000 Georgian Jews remained in Georgia. According to the 2002 First General National Census of Georgia, there are 3,541 Jewish believers in the country. For example, the Lezgishvili branch of Georgian Jews have families in Israel, Baku, Düsseldorf, Cleveland, Ohio. Several hundred Georgian Jewish families live in the New York tri-state area in New York City and Long Island. Georgian-speaking Jewry is one of the oldest surviving Jewish communities in the world; the Georgian Jews have an 2,600-year history in the region. The origin of Georgian Jews known as Gurjim or kartveli ebraelebi, is debated; the most popular view is that the first Jews made their way to southern Georgia after Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and exile in Babylon. This claim is supported by the medieval Georgian historical account by Leonti Mroveli, who writes: Then King Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem; the Jews who fled thence come to Kartli and requested from the mamasakhlisi of Mtskheta territory in return for tribute.
He gave and settled them on the Aragvi, at spring, called Zanavi, renamed as Zanavi, the quarter of Jews.". Another version offered by Mroveli, was the settlement of the Jews in Georgia during the Roman period of Emperor Vespasian, he wrote that Jews lived in Georgia long before 1st century AD. According to Mroveli: During their reign, the emperor of the Romans, captured Jerusalem. From there refugee Jews come to Mtskheta and settled with the old Jews." The ancient Georgian historic chronicle, The Conversion of Kartli, is the oldest and only Georgian source concerning the history of the Jewish community in Georgia. The chronicle describes a version similar to that offered centuries by Leonti Mroveli, but the period of Jewish migration into Georgia is ascribed to Alexander the Great:...the warlike seed, the Honni, exiled by the Chaldeans, requested the land for tribute from the Lord of the Bun T'urks. And they settled in Zanavi, and they possessed it... Georgian sources refer to the arrival of the first Jews in Western Georgia from the Byzantine Empire during the 6th century AD.
3,000 of the Jews fled to Eastern Georgia, which by that time was controlled by the Persians, to escape severe persecution by the Byzantines. The existence of the Jews in these regions during this period is supported by the archaeological evidence, which shows that Jews lived in Mtskheta, the ancient capital of the Eastern Georgian state of Iberia-Kartli. According to the Georgian hagiography, Jewish communities existed in Georgia in the 1st century. A Georgian Jew called Elias was said to be in Jerusalem during the Crucifixion and brought Jesus' robe back with him to Georgia, he had acquired it from a Roman soldier at Golgotha. The Jews spoke Georgian, Jewish traders developed a dialect called Kivruli, or Judaeo-Georgian, which included a number of Hebrew words. In the second half of the 7th century, the Muslim Empire conquered extensive Georgian territory, which became an Arab caliph province. Arab emirs ruled in the Georgian capital Tbilisi and surrounding territory for nearly 500 years, until 1122.
Genetic studies carried out on Georgian Jews as part of a wider survey showed close genetic links with other Jews, in particular with Iraqi and Persian Jews. This seemed to prove the historical accounts of Jewish migration from Persia into Georgia. There is not much documentation about Georgian Jews under the Arab domination. In the late 9th century, Abu-Imran Musa al-Za'farani founded a Jewish Karai sect called the Tiflis Sect, which lasted for more than 300 years; the sect deviated from Rabbinic halakhah in its kashrut customs. This sect did not represent the great majority of Georgian Jews, who adhered to traditional Rabbinic Judaism while maintaining strong religious ties with Baghdad and other Jews of Iraq; the nature of Georgian Jew's observance to rabbinic law was noted by Benjamin of Tudela and Abraham ben David. The Mongols swept through Georgia in 1236, prompting many of the Jews of Eastern and Southern Georgia to move to the western region, which remained independent. There they formed small communities along the Black Sea, their poverty forced them into serfdom.
For 500 years, beginning in the end of the 14th century, the Jews of Georgia belonged to the kamani, or serf class, under the Georgian elite. Their situation worsened in the 15th and 16th centuries due
Ashkenazi Jews known as Ashkenazic Jews or Ashkenazim, are a Jewish diaspora population who coalesced in the Holy Roman Empire around the end of the first millennium. The traditional diaspora language of Ashkenazi Jews is Yiddish, developed after they had moved into northern Europe: beginning with Germany and France in the Middle Ages. For centuries they used Hebrew only as a sacred language, until the revival of Hebrew as a common language in Israel. Throughout their time in Europe, Ashkenazim have made many important contributions to its philosophy, literature, art and science; the term "Ashkenazi" refers to Jewish settlers who established communities along the Rhine river in Western Germany and in Northern France dating to the Middle Ages. Once there, they adapted traditions carried from Babylon, the Holy Land, the Western Mediterranean to their new environment; the Ashkenazi religious rite developed in cities such as Mainz and Troyes. The eminent French Rishon rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki would have a significant influence on the Jewish religion.
In the late Middle Ages, due to religious persecution, the majority of the Ashkenazi population shifted eastward, moving out of the Holy Roman Empire into the areas part of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. In the course of the late 18th and 19th centuries, those Jews who remained in or returned to the German lands generated a cultural reorientation; the Holocaust of the Second World War decimated the Ashkenazim, affecting every Jewish family. It is estimated that in the 11th century Ashkenazi Jews composed three percent of the world's total Jewish population, while an estimate made in 1930 had them as 92 percent of the world's Jews. Prior to the Holocaust, the number of Jews in the world stood at 16.7 million. Statistical figures vary for the contemporary demography of Ashkenazi Jews, ranging from 10 million to 11.2 million. Sergio Della Pergola, in a rough calculation of Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, implies that Ashkenazi Jews make up less than 74% of Jews worldwide. Other estimates place Ashkenazi Jews as making up about 75% of Jews worldwide.
Genetic studies on Ashkenazim—researching both their paternal and maternal lineages—suggest a predominant amount of shared Middle Eastern ancestry, complemented by varying percentages of European admixture. These studies have arrived at diverging conclusions regarding both the degree and the sources of their European ancestry, have focused on the extent of the European genetic origin observed in Ashkenazi maternal lineages. Ashkenazi Jews are popularly contrasted with Sephardi Jews, who descend from Jews who settled in the Iberian Peninsula, Mizrahi Jews, who descend from Jews who remained in the Middle East; the name Ashkenazi derives from the biblical figure of Ashkenaz, the first son of Gomer, son of Japhet, son of Noah, a Japhetic patriarch in the Table of Nations. The name of Gomer has been linked to the ethnonym Cimmerians. Biblical Ashkenaz is derived from Assyrian Aškūza, a people who expelled the Cimmerians from the Armenian area of the Upper Euphrates, whose name is associated with the name of the Scythians.
The intrusive n in the Biblical name is due to a scribal error confusing a vav ו with a nun נ. In Jeremiah 51:27, Ashkenaz figures as one of three kingdoms in the far north, the others being Minni and Ararat corresponding to Urartu, called on by God to resist Babylon. In the Yoma tractate of the Babylonian Talmud the name Gomer is rendered as Germania, which elsewhere in rabbinical literature was identified with Germanikia in northwestern Syria, but became associated with Germania. Ashkenaz is linked to Scandza/Scanzia, viewed as the cradle of Germanic tribes, as early as a 6th-century gloss to the Historia Ecclesiastica of Eusebius. In the 10th-century History of Armenia of Yovhannes Drasxanakertc'i Ashkenaz was associated with Armenia, as it was in Jewish usage, where its denotation extended at times to Adiabene, Khazaria and areas to the east, his contemporary Saadia Gaon identified Ashkenaz with the Saquliba or Slavic territories, such usage covered the lands of tribes neighboring the Slavs, Eastern and Central Europe.
In modern times, Samuel Krauss identified the Biblical "Ashkenaz" with Khazaria. Sometime in the Early Medieval period, the Jews of central and eastern Europe came to be called by this term. Conforming to the custom of designating areas of Jewish settlement with biblical names, Spain was denominated Sefarad, France was called Tsarefat, Bohemia was called the Land of Canaan. By the high medieval period, Talmudic commentators like Rashi began to use Ashkenaz/Eretz Ashkenaz to designate Germany, earlier known as Loter, where in the Rhineland communities of Speyer and Mainz, the most important Jewish communities arose. Rashi uses leshon Ashkenaz to describe German speech, Byzantium and Syrian Jewish letters referred to the Crusaders as Ashkenazim. Given the close links between the Jewish communities of France a
The Crimean Karaites or Krymkaraylar known as Karaims and Qarays, are an ethnic group derived from Turkic-speaking adherents of Karaite Judaism in Central and Eastern Europe in the territory of the former Russian Empire. "Karaim" is a Russian, Ukrainian and Polish name for the community. Turkic-speaking Karaites have lived in Crimea for centuries, their origin is a matter of great controversy. Some regard them as descendants of Karaite Jews who settled in Crimea and adopted a form of the Kypchak tongue. Others view them as descendants of Khazar or Cuman, Kipchak converts to Karaite Judaism. Today many Crimean Karaites identify as descendants of the Khazars; some specialists in Khazar history question the Khazar theory of Karaim origins, noting the following: the Karaim language belongs to the Kipchak linguistic group, the Khazar language belongs to the Bulgar group. The tradition of Karaite Judaism ranks only the Tanakh as a holy book and does not recognize the Talmud. But, the first written mention of the Crimean Karaites was in the 14th century.
These entreaties were successful, in large part due to the czars’ wariness of the Talmud, in 1863 Karaites were granted the same rights as their Christian and Tatar neighbors. Exempted from the Pale of Settlement they were considered non Jews by Nazis; this left the community untouched by Holocaust, unlike other Turkic-speaking Jews, like the Krymchak Jews that were wiped out. Modern Karaim resist being identified as Jews, emphasizing their Turkic heritage and claiming they are Turkic practitioners of a "Mosaic religion" separate and distinct from Judaism. Miller says that Crimean Karaites did not start claiming a distinct identity apart from the Jewish people before the 19th century, that such leaders as Avraham Firkovich and Sima Babovich encouraged this position to avoid the strong anti-Semitism of the period. From the time of the Golden Horde onward, Karaites were present in many towns and villages throughout Crimea and around the Black Sea. During the period of the Crimean Khanate, they had major communities in the towns of Çufut Qale, Sudak and Bakhchisaray.
According to most opinions, the upper stratum of the Khazar society converted to Judaism in the 8th–9th centuries CE. The extent of this conversion and its scope is not known. With the collapse of the Khazar Khanate, a group of the Khazars who took part in a failed rebellion, joined the Magyars in the invasion of Hungary. An archeological relic of this Khazar settlement was discovered in Transylvania in the 20th century. Known as the Alsószentmihály Rovas inscription, it was transcribed by the archaeologist-historian Gábor Vékony. According to the transcription, the two-row inscription means the following: "His mansion is famous." "Jüedi Kür Karaite." or "Jüedi Kür the Karaite." Scholars take this as evidence. According to Karaite tradition, Grand Duke Vytautas of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania relocated one branch of the Crimean Karaites to Lithuania. There they continued to speak their own language, but the Lithuanian dialect of the Karaim language differs from the Crimean one. The Lithuanian Karaites settled in Vilnius and Trakai, as well as in Biržai, Pasvalys and Upytė – smaller settlements throughout Lithuania proper.
The Lithuanian Karaites settled in lands of modern Belarus and Ukraine, which were part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The Karaite communities emerged in Halicz and Kokizow in Galicia, as well as in Łuck and Derazhne in Volhynia. Jews in Lithuanian territory were granted a measure of autonomy under Michel Ezofovich Senior's management; the Trakai Karaim refused citing differences in faith. All Jews, including Karaites, were submitted to Rabbinite "Council of Four Lands" and "Council of the Land of Lithuania" taxation; the Yiddish-speaking Rabbinites considered the Turkic-speaking Karaites to be apostates, kept them in a subordinate and depressed position. The Karaites resented this treatment. In 1646 the Karaites gained expulsion of the Rabbinites from Trakai. Despite such tensions, in 1680 Rabbinite community leaders defended the Karaites of Shaty against blood accusation. Representatives of both groups signed an agreement in 1714 to respect the mutual privileges and resolve disputes without involving the Gentile administration.
According to Crimean Karaite tradition, which developed in the 20th century inter-war Poland their forefathers were farmers and members of the community who served in the military forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, as well as in the Crimean Khanate. But according to the historical documents of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the chief occupation of the Crimean Karaites was usury, they were granted special privileges, including exemption from the military service. In the Crimean Khanate, the Karaites
Tzedakah or Ṣ'daqah in Classical Hebrew, is a Hebrew word meaning "justice" or "righteousness", but used to signify charity Notably, this concept of "charity" is different from the modern Western understanding of "charity", understood as a spontaneous act of goodwill and a marker of generosity, as tzedakah is rather an ethical obligation. In Judaism, tzedakah refers to the religious obligation to do what is right and just, which Judaism emphasizes is an important part of living a spiritual life. Thus, unlike voluntary philanthropy, tzedakah is seen as a religious obligation that must be performed regardless of one's financial standing, is considered mandatory for those of limited financial means. More broadly, tzedakah is considered to be one of the three main acts that can positively influence an unfavorable heavenly decree; the word tzedakah is based on the Hebrew meaning righteousness, fairness or justice, is related to the Hebrew word Tzadik, meaning righteous as an adjective. Although the word appears 157 times in the Masoretic Text of the Hebrew Bible in relation to "righteousness" per se, its use as a term for "charity" in the above sense is an adaptation of Rabbinic Judaism in Talmudic times.
In the Middle Ages, Maimonides conceived of an eight-level hierarchy of tzedakah, where the highest form is to give a gift, loan, or partnership that will result in the recipient becoming self-sufficient, instead of living upon others. The Hebrew Bible teaches the obligation to aid those in need, but does not employ one single term for this obligation; the term tzedekah occurs 157 times in the Masoretic Text in relation to "righteousness" per se in the singular, but sometimes in the plural tzedekot, in relation to acts of charity. In the Septuagint this was sometimes translated as eleemosyne, "almsgiving." In classical rabbinical literature, it was argued that the Biblical regulations concerning left-overs only applied to corn fields and vineyards, not to vegetable gardens. It was stated that the farmer was not permitted to benefit from the gleanings, was not permitted to discriminate among the poor, nor try to frighten them away with dogs or lions the farmer was not allowed to help one of the poor to gather the left-overs.
However, it was argued that the law was only applicable in Canaan, although many classical rabbinical writers who were based in Babylon observed the laws there it was seen as only applying to Jewish paupers, but poor non-Jews were allowed to benefit for the sake of civil peace. Maimonides lists his Eight Levels of Giving, as written in the Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot matanot aniyim, Chapter 10:7–14: Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need. Giving tzedakah anonymously to an unknown recipient via a person, trustworthy and can perform acts of tzedakah with your money in a most impeccable fashion. Giving tzedakah anonymously to a known recipient. Giving tzedakah publicly to an unknown recipient. Giving tzedakah before being asked. Giving adequately after being asked. Giving willingly, but inadequately. Giving "in sadness": It is thought that Maimonides was referring to giving because of the sad feelings one might have in seeing people in need. Other translations say "Giving unwillingly." In practice, most Jews carry out tzedakah by donating a portion of their income to charitable institutions, or to needy people that they may encounter.
Traditional Jews practice ma'sar kesafim, tithing 10% of their income to support those in need. Special acts of tzedakah are performed on significant days; as for the more limited form of tzedakah expressed in the biblical laws, namely the leaving of gleanings from certain crops, the Shulchan Aruch argues that during the exile Jewish farmers are not obliged to obey it. In modern Israel, rabbis of Orthodox Judaism insist that Jews allow gleanings to be consumed by the poor and by strangers, all crops by anyone and everyone during sabbatical years. In addition, one must be careful about how one gives out tzedakah money, it is not sufficient to just give to anyone or any organization, one must check the credentials and finances to be sure that your Tzedakah money will be used wisely, efficiently and "Do not steal from a poor person, for he is poor," and from Talmudic-era c
The Gemara is the component of the Talmud comprising rabbinical analysis of and commentary on the Mishnah. After the Mishnah was published by Judah the Prince, the work was studied exhaustively by generation after generation of rabbis in Babylonia and the Land of Israel, their discussions were written down in a series of books that became the Gemara, which when combined with the Mishnah constituted the Talmud. There are two versions of the Gemara; the Jerusalem Talmud was compiled by scholars of the Land of Israel of the academies of Tiberias and Caesarea, was published between about 350–400 CE. The Talmud Bavli was published about 500 CE by scholars of Babylonia of the academies of Sura and Nehardea. By convention, a reference to the "Gemara" or "Talmud," without further qualification, refers to the Babylonian version; the main compilers were Rav Ashi. See Talmud; the Gemara and the Mishnah together make up the Talmud. The Talmud thus comprises two components: the Mishnah – the core text; the rabbis of the Mishnah are known as Tannaim.
The rabbis of the Gemara are referred to as Amoraim. Because there are two Gemaras, there are in fact two Talmuds: the Jerusalem Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud, corresponding to the Jerusalem Gemara and the Babylonian Gemara; the Gemara is written in Aramaic, the Jerusalem Gemara in Western Aramaic and the Babylonian in Eastern Aramaic, but both contain portions in Hebrew. Sometimes the language changes in the middle of a story. In a narrow sense, the word Gemara refers to the mastery and transmission of existing tradition, as opposed to sevara, which means the deriving of new results by logic. Both activities are represented in the "Gemara" as a literary work; the term "gemara" for the activity of study is far older than its use as a description of any text: thus Pirke Avot, a work long preceding the recording of the Talmud, recommends starting "Mishnah" at the age of 10 and "Gemara" at the age of 15. The analysis of the Amoraim is focused on clarifying the positions and views of the Tannaim.
These debates and exchanges form the "building-blocks" of the gemara. A sugya will comprise a detailed proof-based elaboration of the Mishna; every aspect of the Mishnaic text is treated as a subject of close investigation. This analysis is aimed at an exhaustive understanding of the Mishna's full meaning. In the Talmud, a sugya is presented as a series of responsive hypotheses and questions – with the Talmudic text as a record of each step in the process of reasoning and derivation; the Gemara thus takes the form of a dialectical exchange. The disputants here are termed the tartzan; the gemara records the semantic disagreements between Amoraim. Some of these debates were conducted by the Amoraim, though many of them are hypothetically reconstructed by the Talmud's redactors. Are debates formally closed; the distinctive character of the gemara derives from the intricate use of argumentation and debate, described above. In each sugya, either participant may cite scriptural and Amoraic proof to build a logical support for their respective opinions.
The process of deduction required to derive a conclusion from a prooftext is logically complex and indirect. "Confronted with a statement on any subject, the Talmudic student will proceed to raise a series of questions before he satisfies himself of having understood its full meaning." This analysis is described as "mathematical" in approach. Prooftexts quoted to corroborate or disprove the respective opinions and theories will include: verses from the Tanakh: the exact language employed is regarded as significant; the actual debate will centre on the following categories: Why does the Mishna use one word rather than another? If a statement is not clear enough, the Gemara seeks to clarify the Mishna's intention. Exploring the logical principles underlying the Mishnah's statements, showing how different understandings of the Mishnah's reasons could lead to differences in their practical application. What underlying principle is entailed in a statement of fact or in a specific instance brought as an illustration?
If a statement appears obvious, the Gemara seeks the logical reason for its necessity. It seeks to answer under which circumstances a statement is true, what qualifications are permissible. All statements are examined for internal consistency. Resolving
Jewish ethnic divisions
Jewish ethnic divisions refers to a number of distinctive communities within the world's ethnically Jewish population. Although considered one single self-identifying ethnicity, there are distinctive ethnic subdivisions among Jews, most of which are the result of geographic branching from an originating Israelite population, mixing with local populations, subsequent independent evolutions; as long ago as Biblical times and linguistic differences between Jewish communities within the area of Ancient Israel and Judea, are observed both within the Bible itself as well as from archeological remains. In more recent human history, an array of Jewish communities were established by Jewish settlers in various places around the Old World at great distances from one another resulting in effective and long-term isolation from each other. During the millennia of the Jewish diaspora the communities would develop under the influence of their local environments. Today, manifestation of these differences among the Jews can be observed in Jewish cultural expressions of each community, including Jewish linguistic diversity, culinary preferences, liturgical practices, religious interpretations, as well as degrees and sources of genetic admixture.
The full extent of the cultural, religious or other differences among the Israelites in antiquity is unknown. Following the defeat of the Kingdom of Israel in the 720s BCE and the Kingdom of Judah in 586 BCE, the Jewish people became dispersed throughout much of the Middle East and Africa in Egypt and North Africa to the west, as well as in Yemen to the south, in Mesopotamia to the east; the Jewish population in ancient Israel was reduced by the Jewish–Roman wars and by the hostile policies of the Christian emperors, against non-Christians, but the Jews always retained a presence in the Levant. Paul Johnson writes of this time: "Wherever towns survived, or urban communities sprang up, Jews would sooner or establish themselves; the near-destruction of Palestinian Jewry in the second century turned the survivors of Jewish rural communities into marginal town-dwellers. After the Arab conquest in the seventh century, the large Jewish agricultural communities in Babylonia were progressively wrecked by high taxation, so that there too the Jews drifted into towns and became craftsmen and dealers.
Everywhere these urban Jews, the vast majority literate and numerate, managed to settle, unless penal laws or physical violence made it impossible."Jewish communities continued to exist in Palestine in small numbers: during the early Byzantine 6th century there were 43 communities. The majority of the Jewish population during the High Middle Ages lived in Iberia and in the region of Mesopotamia and Persia, the former known as the Sefardim and the latter known as the Mizrahim. A substantial population existed in central Europe, the so-called Ashkenazim. Following the expulsion of Sephardim from Iberia during the 15th century, a mass migration into the Ottoman Empire swelled the size of many eastern communities including those in Palestine; the 16th century saw many Ashkenazi Kabbalists drawn to the mystical aura and teachings of the Jewish holy city. Johnson notes that in the Arab-Muslim territories, which included most of Spain, all of North Africa, the Near East south of Anatolia in the Middle Ages, the Jewish condition was easier as a rule, than it was in Europe.
Over the centuries following the Crusades and Inquisition, Jews from around the world began emigrating in increasing numbers. Upon arrival, these Jews adopted the customs of the Mizrahi and Sephardi communities into which they moved. With Baron von Rothschild's land purchases and subsequent efforts to turn Palestine into a verdant Jewish homeland, the subsequent rise of Zionism, a flood of Ashkenazi immigration brought the Jewish population of the region to several hundred thousand. Following the failure of the second revolt against the Romans and the exile, Jewish communities could be found in nearly every notable center throughout the Roman Empire, as well as scattered communities found in centers beyond the Empire's borders in northern Europe, in eastern Europe, in southwestern Asia, in Africa. Farther to the east along trade routes, Jewish communities could be found throughout Persia and in empires farther east including in India and China. In the Early Middle Ages of the 6th to 11th centuries, the Radhanites traded along the overland routes between Europe and Asia earlier established by the Romans, dominated trade between the Christian and the Islamic worlds, used a trade network that covered most areas of Jewish settlement.
In the middle Byzantine period, the khan of Khazaria in the northern Caucasus and his court converted to Judaism in order to maintain neutrality between Christian Byzantium and the Islamic world. This event forms the framework for Yehuda Halevi's work The Kuzari, but how much these traces of Judaism within this group survived the collapse of the Khazar empire is a matter of scholarly debate. In western Europe, following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476, after the re-orientation of trade caused by the Moorish conquest of Iberia in the early 8th century, communications between the Jewish communities in northern parts of the former western empire became sporadic. At the s
Bar and Bat Mitzvah
Bar Mitzvah is a Jewish coming of age ritual for boys. Bat Mitzvah is a Jewish coming of age ritual for girls; the plural is B'nai Mitzvah for boys, B'not Mitzvah for girls. According to Jewish law, when Jewish boys become 13 years old, they become accountable for their actions and become a bar mitzvah. A girl becomes a bat mitzvah at the age of 12 according to Orthodox and Conservative Jews, at the age of 13 according to Reform Jews. Prior to reaching bar mitzvah age, the child's parents hold the responsibility for the child's actions. After this age, the boys and girls bear their own responsibility for Jewish ritual law and ethics, are able to participate in all areas of Jewish community life. Traditionally, the father of the bar mitzvah gives thanks to God that he is no longer punished for the child's sins. In addition to being considered accountable for their actions from a religious perspective, a thirteen-year-old male may be counted towards a prayer quorum and may lead prayer and other religious services in the family and the community.
Bar mitzvah is mentioned in the Talmud. In some classic sources the age of 13 appears for instance as the age from which males must fast on the Day of Atonement, while females fast from the age of 12; the age of b'nai mitzvah coincides with physical puberty. The bar or bat mitzvah ceremony is held on the first Shabbat after a boy's thirteenth and a girl's twelfth birthday. Bar is a Jewish Babylonian Aramaic word meaning "son", while bat means "daughter" in Hebrew, mitzvah means "commandment" or "law", thus bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah translate to "son of commandment" and "daughter of commandment". However, in rabbinical usage, the word bar means "under the category of" or "subject to". Bar mitzvah therefore translates to "an, subject to the law". Although the term is used to refer to the ritual itself, in fact the phrase refers to the person; the modern method of celebrating becoming a bar mitzvah did not exist in the time of the Hebrew Bible, Mishnah or Talmud. Early rabbinic sources specify 13 as the age.
However, the celebration of this occasion is not mentioned until the Middle Ages. The Bible does not explicitly specify the age thirteen. Passages in the books of Exodus and Numbers note the age of majority for army service as twenty. Machzor Vitri notes that Genesis 34:25 refers to Levi as a "man", when a calculation from other verses suggests that Levi was aged thirteen at the time; the age of thirteen is mentioned in the Mishnah as the time one is obligated to observe the Torah's commandments: "At five years old one should study the Scriptures, at ten years for the Mishnah, at 13 for the commandments..."Elsewhere, the Mishna lists the ages at which a vow is considered automatically valid. Other sources list thirteen as the age of majority with respect to following the commandments of the Torah, including: "Why is the evil inclination personified as the great king? Because it is thirteen years older than the good inclination." That is to say, one's good inclination begins to act upon reaching the age of majority.
According to Pirke Rabbi Eli'ezer 26, Abraham rejected the idolatry of his father and became a worshiper of God when he was thirteen years old. The term "bar mitzvah" appears first in the Talmud, meaning "one, subject to the law", though it does not refer to age; the term "bar mitzvah", in reference to age, cannot be traced earlier than the 14th century, the older rabbinical term being "gadol" or "bar'onshin". Many sources indicate; some late midrashic sources, some medieval sources, refer to a synagogue ceremony performed upon the boy's reaching age thirteen: Simon Tzemach Duran quotes a Midrash interpreting the Hebrew word zo in Isaiah 43:21 as referring by its numerical value to those that have reached the age of 13. This seems to imply that, at the time of the composition of the Midrash the bar mitzvah publicly pronounced a benediction on the occasion of his entrance upon maturity; the Midrash Hashkem: "The heathen when he begets a son consecrates him to idolatrous practises. Masseket Soferim makes matters more explicit: "In Jerusalem they are accustomed to initiate their children to fast on the Day of Atonement, a year or two before their maturity.
Whosoever is of superiority in the town is expected to pray for him as he bows down to him to receive his blessing." Genesis Rabbah, commenting upon Genesis 25:27, says: "Up to thirteen years Esau and Jacob went together to the primary school and back home.