Bar Mitzvah (Hebrew: בַּר מִצְוָה) is a Jewishcoming of age ritual for boys. Bat Mitzvah (Hebrew: בַּת מִצְוָה; Ashkenazi pronunciation: Bas Mitzvah) is a Jewish coming of age ritual for girls. The plural is B'nai Mitzvah for boys, and B'not Mitzvah (Ashkenazi pronunciation: B'nos 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, and 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, tradition, and ethics, and 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 (Genesis Rabbah, Toledot 63). 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 Mishnah (Ethics of the Fathers, 5:21) and 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 roughly coincides with physical puberty. The bar or bat mitzvah ceremony is usually held on the first Shabbat after a boy's thirteenth and a girl's twelfth birthday (or thirteenth in Reform congregations).
Bar (בַּר) is a Jewish Babylonian Aramaic word literally meaning "son" (בֵּן), while bat (בַּת) means "daughter" in Hebrew, and mitzvah (מִצְוָה) means "commandment" or "law" (plural: mitzvot). Thus bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah literally 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 [agent] who is subject to the law". Although the term is commonly used to refer to the ritual itself, in fact the phrase originally refers to the person.