Although Tachanun is omitted on a number of festive occasions, such as when a brit is to take place in the synagogue or when one who was recently married is present during services,1 there are differing customs as to whether Tachanun should be omitted in the presence of a boy celebrating his bar mitzvah.
It seems that common Ashkenazi custom is to recite Tachanun as usual at a bar mitzvah.2 It is explained that although there is certainly great joy when a boy becomes a bar mitzvah and obligated in the mitzvot of the Torah, there is no guarantee that he will successfully observe all the mitzvot and not sin. This being the case, the joy is somewhat limited and does not fully warrant omitting Tachanun. It is also noted that, contrary to popular misconception, the bar mitzva is not truly the exact moment that a boy becomes obligated to observe the mitzvot. According to rabbinic decree one is actually obligated to begin observing the mitzvot, to the best of one’s ability, from nine years old.3 Based on these and other considerations, there are those who have argued that omitting Tachanun at a bar mitzvah is without any basis.4
In many Sephardic communities, Tachanun is indeed omitted at a bar mitzvah.5 Those who subscribe to this view argue that a bar mitzvah is actually a communal simcha and not just a private one, which further warrants the omission of Tachanun. Some authorities go so far as to suggest that a bar mitzvah is comparable to a wedding. It is reasoned that just as Tachanun is omitted in the presence of a groom, it should be omitted in the presence of a bar mitzvah boy as well.6 Similarly, the Zohar implies that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai did not recite Tachanun at his son’s bar mitzvah.7 There are additional grounds to omit Tachanun at a bar mitzvah if the seudat mitzvah, the festive meal, will be taking place immediately following services.8
There is also a view that Tachanun should be omitted when tefillin are worn for the first time.9 In fact, some authorities rule that one should even recite the shehecheyanu blessing the first time one puts on tefillin,10 although common custom is not according to this view.11 It is interesting to note that in many congregations, especially Chasidic ones, Tachanun is omitted on all festive and noteworthy occasions, including on the yahrzeit of great rabbis. Ultimately, the recitation of Tachanun is optional in nature.12
As mentioned, widespread Ashkenazi practice is to recite Tachanun as normal at a bar mitzvah. It is argued that reciting supplications such as Tachanun on one’s bar mitzvah day is actually quite auspicious. Tachanun is a prayer that represents teshuva, returning to G-d, a theme that is quite appropriate for a young man to contemplate on his bar mitzvah day.13 Nevertheless, a number of halachic authorities rule that a bar mitzvah boy and his father who choose to omit Tachanun in their own prayers in honor of the simcha may do so.14
1. OC 131:4.
2. Az Nidberu 11:48; Rivevot Ephraim 1:337; 3:86; 4:44:57; Tzitz Eliezer 11:17; Minchat Yitzchak 8:11.
3. Siach Yitzchak (Alfaya), p. 40, cited in Birurei Chaim 3:15:19.
4. Tzitz Eliezer 11:17.
5. Yabia Omer 1:27, 4:14; Mayim Chayim 22.
6. Nahar Mitzrayim, Nefilat Apayim.
7. Zohar, Bereishit 415–17.
8. Ishei Yisrael, chapter 25, n. 79. See also Birurei Chaim 3:15:19.
9. Tzitz Eliezer 18:33:4; Minhag Yisrael Torah, OC 131:3. There are additional factors and disputes on this issue as well, including if the tefillin are being worn for the first time at the bar mitzva or the boy had already started wearing them previously.
10. Tosefta, Berachot 6:14, 15; Rokei’ach 371; Radbaz 5.
11. Mishna Berura 22:1; Rivevot Ephraim 8:390:16.
12. Tur, OC 131; Be’er Heitev, OC 131:13.
13. Sichot Kodesh, 11 Nissan 5722; Likutei Sichot, vol. 35, p. 276.
14. Piskei Teshuvot 131, n. 141.