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Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Stages of big path of Jewish adulthood

Everything obeys to time, running through seasons. First, it becomes green around us, then yellow and fades. Then it grows again, waiting for the warm sun. When the snow appears – it’s winter time. When it melts – it’s spring. When it is not on the streets in banks of snow but in our waffled ice cream – it means summer…

Everything changes… When your boy told his first ‘agu-agu’ words – it’s a joy. When he hugged mom and dad – the double joy. When he got his first ‘A’ in the school – the super joy! When he smoked his first cigarette or showed you a girl with words “Mom, dad, meet my Sarah” – it means your boy is grown up now and you have to deal with it.

Why make him upset? Don’t have to. Let him consider what he wants and we, as his parents, will follow the commitments of Torah and when the time comes, we’ll be ready to celebrate another important point in his life – Bar Mitzvah at Western Wall in Jerusalem.

photo bar mitzvah in the western wall
Bar mitzvah israel

What are major differences between Bar Mitzvah and the majority?

Different nations and religions have the different ages of marking majority. Even more – sometimes, there different kinds of majority exist. For instance, in one age a person can drink, in the other, older, – he can get married. And this really never depends on physical traits of a person or his brain development – this is followed by long-time existing traditions and, in many cases, provided by law.

The same is with Jewish people – the tradition says unambiguously that in 12 years for girls and year older for boys, they become adults. And whoever says that “Hey, they are incapable of adopting wise decisions in this age yet!” – is right. Because they are really immature for the most part of important decisions that the real life requires.

photo Bar and Bat Mitzvah
Bat mitzvah ceremony

But we are not saying that Bar Mitzvah is to mark the physical and/or mental ripening of a man. No, rather, it is the conscious beginning of understanding that there is God and that he is great. And His greatness is expressed in many His words that now must be followed – starting from the end of Bar Mitzvah.

So rabbis say that this age gives a full possibility to start having personalized relations with God. And they are named commandments that must be followed under the Testament.

So this is, basically, named Bar Mitzvah – and the main reason for it. Literally, Bar Mitzvah means ‘the son of commandments’ or, in the case with girls’ Bat Mitzvah, ‘the daughter of commandments.’

The religious first step will come prior to the secular ageing, when the first shot of liquor is tasted, when the passport is received, when the first girl is kissed…

So what’s the story?

Long-long time ago, there was no such a thing as the celebration of Bar Mitzvah. The only texts in Torah about adulthood were saying about serving in the army (after reaching the age of 20), which pretty relatively can be counted as the full-age.

However, in Mishnah, there is a number 13 as the age, after which every Jew is obliged to stick to rules and commandments of Judaism written in Torah. The term ‘Bar Mitzvah’ for the first time appeared in Talmud of the 5th century BC indicating a person, towards which the legal and procedural right is already applied now. For instance, any swear that a boy pronounces in this age and older, obtains the legal power.

Then, for some reason, Bar Mitzvah was completely forgotten up to 16th century BC. But when it was unearthed, this meant at first the application of the power of law to a boy.

photo robinson's arch bar mitzvah
Israel bar mitzvah

Then, for some reason, Bar Mitzvah was completely forgotten up to 16th century BC. But when it was unearthed, this meant at first the application of the power of law to a boy.

So what does it really mean for a young adult who had undergone the rite?

It means that starting from 13, a boy accepts and must comply with all ethnic, ritual, religious, secular, and other norms of Torah and rules of his community and take part in its life with rights and obligations. Specifically saying, he:

  • claims to obtain the moral responsibility for all his actions and decisions
  • can be called to read Torah
  • can take part in a quorum
  • may get married (the most pleasant thing… But if to ponder nicely about it, it depends)
  • the right to possess belongings (including movable and immovable property).

However, along with all above-mentioned, he is also now obliged to fulfill all 613 Torah’s commandments. Nobody said it would be easy – so welcome to the adulthood!

Before 13, the complete responsibility for all this was put on the father’s shoulders. It added to his personal responsibility to take care of a child and raise him.

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