What Is an Appropriate Cash Gift for a Bar Mitzvah?

A bar mitzvah is a celebration of a Jewish boy's transition to manhood.
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A bar mitzvah is a ceremony conducted at a Jewish synagogue for a young man when he reaches the age of 13. During the service, the young man will read from the Torah in Hebrew and lead some prayers. Following the service, the young man is considered a man for the purposes of religious services. Bar mitzvahs are important in the life of a Jewish family and are celebrated with sometimes large and elaborate parties.

Chai and Numerology

In Hebrew, each letter has a corresponding numeric value. The symbol for the word "chai" meaning "life" has a numeric value of 18. Luck is associated with the number 18. For this reason, traditional Jewish giving and gifts to Jewish people are given in multiples of $18. A good way to incorporate this concept is to determine approximately how much you want to give to the person and then find a multiple of 18 that is near that number.

Pricing Guidelines

A general rule for bar or bat mitzvah gift giving is to take the amount you would normally spend on a birthday present and give 1.5 times that amount, in a multiple of 18. For example, if you were going to give a present of $100 for that birthday, you would want to give something in the neighborhood of $150, but in a multiple of eighteen, so you could give either $144 ($18 times 8) or $162 (18 times 9).

Gifts from Children

An exception to this rule is if your children are the only ones invited to the bar or bat mitzvah party. In this case, the child may wish to choose his own gift. He could choose the same monetary gift, only at a level he can personally afford. It is far more common for children attending bar or bat mitzvah parties to give a gift that is similar to a birthday present and is something personalized for the celebrant.

Split Gifts

Some families choose to divide the money they intend to spend, buying a present with some of it and presenting the rest as a check or cash. In some cases, parents give a portion of the total gift money to their own child to purchase a gift for the celebrant. The parents give the rest of the money to the celebrant, again following the pricing guidelines and giving in multiples of 18.

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