Can my grandson celebrate a bar mitzvah if he doesn't attend religious school?

Question: My grandson does not attend religious school. Is he able to celebrate a bar-mitzvah at the age of thirteen even though he has no preparation and will not be participating in any service?-- Louise G.

Rabbi Josh Strom: The traditional answer is that when a Jewish male turns 13 he technically automatically becomes a bar mitzvah, an adult in the eyes of the Jewish community, and therefore obligated to lead a responsible Jewish life. Since reading from and blessing the Torah are among the highest duties a Jewish adult can perform, this explains the Bar Mitzvah ceremony. But leading a responsible, adult Jewish life requires and demands regular study of Torah and other Jewish texts. So, technically, when he turns 13 he is a Bar Mitzvah, and because we live in a free country, he is able to celebrate. But without commitment to Torah study and learning of the prayers incumbent of every Jewish adult, it would seem to me as though a celebration of this kind would be more of a "sweet thirteen" than anything else.

Would you like to add your comment? See our Forum, where this topic is up for discussion!