Jewish Bar Mitzvah Ceremony
THE JEWISH CULTURE – THE BAR MITZVAH CEREMONY
Jewish culture and religion are date back to over 4000 years ago. There are many sacred customs and traditions that the Jewish people follow, one of which is a rite of manhood called Bar Mitzvah. Bar means ‘son of’ in old Aramaic and ‘Mitzvah’ means commandment or law. In this context, however ‘Bar’ means follower. So quite literally, it means follower of the commandments.
At 13 years of age, the boy becomes a man in the eyes of the synagogue. A ‘man of duty’ as implied in the name of the ceremony, a man capable of upholding law and who is now responsible for themselves. Gone are the care free days of childhood. The young man is now seen as an adult in the eyes of Jewish Law. There are privileges of all sorts that become available to the one who has had ‘Bar Mitzvah’. One of these privileges is that they are now able to get up in front of everyone at temple and read from the Torah in services.
It is acknowledged by the faith that full spiritual and intellectual maturity does require time, this ceremony opens up opportunities for the young man to have experiences that can foster building a clearer image of the self in an adult, productive capacity. This stimulates the belief in what the young man can become and the place he can assume in the temple and in the Jewish society.
As a symbolic measure of evolution, the Bar Mitzvah represents that the young man has a greater understanding of what is expected of them, and greater understanding of themselves. It is in large part the expectations that are stimulated within the young man who is going through this initiation that drive the belief in taking his next step in growth. It is also the belief and expectation of those around him in his family, friends, and church that help drive this growing belief.
Jewish children raised in the traditional manner at age 3 are taught the Jewish alphabet, bible stories at age 5, rabbinical commentary at age 10. From the synagogue since age four , formal education in values and culture of the Jewish tradition are taught. All of this culminates in the Bar Mitzvah ceremony.
In an inspirational context, there is in Jewish folklore a very famous man’s Bar Mitzvah, Joseph. He dreamed after the night of his celebration that an angel gave him a directive to seek the kind and ask him for a treasure – the treasure that is the inheritance of the dreamer, the dreamer of faith. He reached the king and told him the dream requesting the treasure. At once of a look of deep contemplation and peace came over the busy and haggard king, and the aids of the king mocked him. One of the king’s scribes went on, in a mocking babble, to describe a certain place under a stove in a house by a tree that HE was told there was treasure also, and he surely did not go on such a crazy search. The king remarked ‘you must either be a prophet or a fool with a dream’. They all dismissed Joseph’s vision, and had Joseph thrown out.
After Joseph came home he traveled across the lands to return, and found his way back to his own home. He noticed that his own very home was under a tree in a manner described by the mocking scribe. His hope swelled as he remembered the stove in his very basement! Could it be, his trip to the King’s palace was not in vein? He strode down into the basement, and dug under the old stove. Low and behold he found a chest. It contained the treasure he sought. His joy was overwhelming and his vision was correct.
He used it to build a house of study, and provide lodging for the poor. He would tell every disciple, “Search for your dream, take it to your heart, make it your own by faith. This dream is priceless treasure. Treasures are not to be found in books, nor in hearsay, nor even by travel to the very ends of the earth; for it is in no other person, place, or thing. Your treasure is in yourself.
Joseph believed strongly enough from a source of inner inspiration, that he acted upon his belief and ultimately transformed it into knowing, not only finding physical treasure to do great works, but found great confidence in himself, in his visions, and in the power of the connection with his own inner self.
copyright 2002 School of Metaphysics