Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Bar Mitzvah

I have needed a couple days of reflection on the bar mitzvah before I could write about it. It was a very moving and emotional experience for me. Someone told me at the ceremony that, not being Jewish, I couldn’t really understand the significance of the event. While that may be true in the religious sense, I did feel like I shared in a very wonderful rite of passage that in many ways I am sad my boys will not go through.

There is one rabbi in the state of Montana. There have been only three bar mitzvahs ever in the town we were in. The local card shop doesn’t carry any cards for Jewish holidays. The bar mitzvah was a huge family effort in so many ways. And I don’t think that small town will soon forget the ceremony and the incredible party that followed.

The tradition of the ceremony goes back to a time when a thirteen-year-old boy was ready to become a man and marry. Obviously, that is not the case in modern times, but the tradition is still valid in marking the time when a boy enters into the process of becoming an adult, with some of the responsibilities and privileges that come along with that. It is ceremony bringing together all those that care for and support the boy in his journey toward manhood; his parents, his rabbi, his religious coach, members of his community, his siblings, grandparents, relatives, and friends from near and far. The boys discovers, through preparing for and performing the ceremony, that he can do it. And everyone is there to say to him: we know you can do it, we’ve seen you do it, and we are here to support you now and through your journey to becoming an adult.

I can only guess that this is a powerful message for a thirteen-year-old boy, navigating his way through figuring out who he is. I can’t help but think how many other thirteen year olds out there would benefit from this show of love and solidarity. I felt truly honored to be a part of it.

Our ten and nine year old boys were there with us. As is typical with my boys (and my husband too) they didn’t offer up any insightful initial reaction to what they had witnessed. I know from experience that I have to give them time, and then some more time, to reflect and let it all stew, and then at some random moment they will come up with some words to describe how they felt about it. I will be sure to record that on this blog when it happens.

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