Re: bar mitzvah #general
In a message dated 9/9/2006 7:26:34 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
<< The anecdotes that I have heard more than once about the boy being
told that he must be thirteen by now demonstrates that little thought was
given to the exact date at which he becomes a bar-mitzva. Without a date,
it's hard to imagine a celebration (your word). >>
==Our rabbis were practical and did not assume everyone owned or could read
a calendar. The halakha (religious ruling) is that if one does not know the
boy's age, one assumes appropriate maturity >from physical evidence, the
appearance of the second pubic hair.
<< Being told that now that he
is over thriteen, he casually begins to put on tfillin because that is what
is required of him -- if he were ceremonially called to the Torah (which, as
you say, is not required of him), one imagines that the anecdotes would
mention the fact rather than the tfillin, but they never do. Being called
ceremoniously to the Torah in celebration of becoming a bar-mitzva rings a
lot like imitation of the First Communion practiced by the surrounding
population; I think the early 18th century is too early for that, in either
northern or southern Europe.
==Jewish tradition has always, and at every opportunity, created a
celebration of every first-time occasion, >from eating the first almond of the season
to wearing a scarf for the first time. In this tradition, a blessing, e.g.
"sheptarani" (for freeing me of obligation for my son's religious behavior) or
"shehecheyanu" (allowing us to reach this joyful occasion), or the Yiddish
Simmentov unMasseltov (with a cascade of nuts or candy) is totally part of
quotidian Jewish practice. Nothing to do with Christian Confirmation.
Michael Bernet, New York
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