bar mitzvah #general


Judith Romney Wegner
 

At 3:53 PM +0000 9/9/06, Stan Goodman wrote:

On Sat, 9 Sep 2006 14:04:38 UTC, jrw@... (Judith Romney Wegner)
wrote:
> If such celebrations were taking place elsewhere, I wonder why not
in Hameln? (Anyone who has read the book would agree that given the
minute detail she goes into about other life-cycle events in her
family, she would surely have at least mentioned one or two bar
mitzvah ceremonies if such were customary in her time and place.)
> Judith Romney Wegner


I don't think there was such a concept in the early 18th century. It was
nearly a century later that governments started archiving vital records, so
that the importance of birthdays began to develop only then.
Dear Stan,

But who said anything about birthdays in general -- or >from the point
of view of civil records? We were speaking only of the age at which
a Jewish boy becomes obligated to keep mitzvot-- in other words,
the age at which he starts to "count" as an adult. That age was
already established as thirteen for boys (and twelve years old for
girls) way back in mishnaic times nearly two thousand years ago --
so there's nothing modern about that. And marking the age of
majority in Judaism has nothing whatsoever to do with the European
concept of celebrating a birthday -- any birthday -- as such.

For what it's worth, the *only* birthday celebration mentioned in the
entire Bible is Pharaoh's birthday in the story of Joseph! This
would suggest that birthdays in general were not observed in
Israelite culture -- but evidently they were in Egyptian culture --
or at least Pharaoh's was!

My point was simply that the *celebration* of becoming a bar mitzvah
(even marking it merely by making a special point of calling the boy
to the Torah) is not halakhically required -- and apparently (at
least on the evidence of Glueckel's diaries) even this minimal
"marker" was not the practice until comparatively recent centuries.

I am still wondering whether the practice of calling the boy to the
Torah in a symbolic way to mark the occasion developed in different
places at different times. (E.g., does anyone know when Sephardim
started doing this?)

Judith Romney Wegner


Stan Goodman <SPAM_FOILER@...>
 

On Sat, 9 Sep 2006 21:27:04 UTC, jrw@... (Judith Romney Wegner)
wrote:

At 3:53 PM +0000 9/9/06, Stan Goodman wrote:

On Sat, 9 Sep 2006 14:04:38 UTC, jrw@... (Judith Romney Wegner)
wrote:
> If such celebrations were taking place elsewhere, I wonder why not
in Hameln? (Anyone who has read the book would agree that given the
minute detail she goes into about other life-cycle events in her
family, she would surely have at least mentioned one or two bar
mitzvah ceremonies if such were customary in her time and place.)
> Judith Romney Wegner


I don't think there was such a concept in the early 18th century. It was
nearly a century later that governments started archiving vital records, so
that the importance of birthdays began to develop only then.
Dear Stan,

But who said anything about birthdays in general -- or >from the point
of view of civil records? We were speaking only of the age at which
a Jewish boy becomes obligated to keep mitzvot-- in other words,
the age at which he starts to "count" as an adult. That age was
already established as thirteen for boys (and twelve years old for
girls) way back in mishnaic times nearly two thousand years ago --
so there's nothing modern about that. And marking the age of
majority in Judaism has nothing whatsoever to do with the European
concept of celebrating a birthday -- any birthday -- as such.

For what it's worth, the *only* birthday celebration mentioned in the
entire Bible is Pharaoh's birthday in the story of Joseph! This
would suggest that birthdays in general were not observed in
Israelite culture -- but evidently they were in Egyptian culture --
or at least Pharaoh's was!

My point was simply that the *celebration* of becoming a bar mitzvah
(even marking it merely by making a special point of calling the boy
to the Torah) is not halakhically required -- and apparently (at
least on the evidence of Glueckel's diaries) even this minimal
"marker" was not the practice until comparatively recent centuries.

I am still wondering whether the practice of calling the boy to the
Torah in a symbolic way to mark the occasion developed in different
places at different times. (E.g., does anyone know when Sephardim
started doing this?)

Judith Romney Wegner
I think I answered the question. The point of the sentence about birthdays
was that until it was required by the government (and often not even then)
birthdates were unimportant, and people didn't know exactly when they were
born. 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). 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.

But if you don't accept the reasoning, I hope someone can supply better.

--
Stan Goodman, Qiryat Tiv'on, Israel

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Stan Goodman <SPAM_FOILER@...>
 

On Sat, 9 Sep 2006 14:04:38 UTC, jrw@... (Judith Romney Wegner)
wrote:

To me, one of the most interesting things about Glueckel's memoirs is
that whereas the author goes into great detail describing births,
marriages and deaths, she never (so far as i recall) so much as
mentions a boy becoming a bar mitzvah. This would seem to indicate
that in her time (at least in Hameln) there was as yet no customary
celebration of this event. Of course there is no halakhic
requirement of such a celebration; but I don't think Glueckel ever
comments on one of her sons being called to the Torah for the first
time or even on their having reached the age of obligation to observe
the mitzvot. I am wondering whether anyone can point us to firm
documentary evidence of bar mitzvah celebrations taking place
anywhere else in Glueckel's time.

If such celebrations were taking place elsewhere, I wonder why not
in Hameln? (Anyone who has read the book would agree that given the
minute detail she goes into about other life-cycle events in her
family, she would surely have at least mentioned one or two bar
mitzvah ceremonies if such were customary in her time and place.)

Judith Romney Wegner
I don't think there was such a concept in the early 18th century. It was
nearly a century later that governments started archiving vital records, so
that the importance of birthdays began to develop only then. I've heard
enough tales about men who died only in this century who weren't even clear
about their exact birthdate, and who were told one day that they must be by
now over thirteen, so they started putting on tfillin. I think gala
bar-mitzva celebrations are a mid-19th century German invention.
--
Stan Goodman, Qiryat Tiv'on, Israel

Searching:
NEACHOWICZ/NOACHOWICZ, NEJMAN/NAJMAN, SURALSKI: Lomza Gubernia
ISMACH: Lomza Gubernia, Galicia, and Ukraina
HERTANU, ABRAMOVICI, LAUER: Dorohoi District, Romania
GRISARU, VATARU: Iasi, Dorohoi, and Mileanca, Romania

See my interactive family tree (requires Java 1.1.6 or better). the URL is:
http://www.hashkedim.com

For reasons connected with anti-spam/junk security, the return address is
not valid. To communicate with me, please visit my website (see the URL
above -- no Java required for this purpose) and fill in the email form there.


MBernet@...
 

In a message dated 9/9/2006 9:46:16 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,
jrw@... writes:
To me, one of the most interesting things about Glueckel's memoirs is
that whereas the author goes into great detail describing births,
marriages and deaths, she never (so far as i recall) so much as
mentions a boy becoming a bar mitzvah. This would seem to indicate
that in her time (at least in Hameln) there was as yet no customary
celebration of this event. Of course there is no halakhic
requirement of such a celebration; but I don't think Glueckel ever
comments on one of her sons being called to the Torah for the first
time or even on their having reached the age of obligation to observe
the mitzvot. I am wondering whether anyone can point us to firm
documentary evidence of bar mitzvah celebrations taking place
anywhere else in Glueckel's time.

--If such celebrations were taking place elsewhere, I wonder why not
in Hameln? (Anyone who has read the book would agree that given the
minute detail she goes into about other life-cycle events in her
family, she would surely have at least mentioned one or two bar
mitzvah ceremonies if such were customary in her time and place.)

Michael Bernet, New York


MBernet@...
 

In a message dated 9/9/2006 7:26:34 P.M. Eastern Standard Time,
SPAM_FOILER@... writes:

<< 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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