A Bar Mitzvah? Are You Crazy?

In October, (yes I know it’s almost 10 months away), my son turns thirteen.  I’m thinking about doing something that will probably mortify him, mystify friends, and may even tick off a few people.

I want to give him a Bar Mitzvah.

OK, not a Bar Mitzvah, exactly; we aren’t Jewish, and a central tenet of our religion holds that he will not be a “Son of the Law” – he will instead one day be freed from the law.  Yet, as with so many things, we can find the roots of “right” ways to do things in the Jewish religious traditions.

Stick with me here.

I’m a big believer in most of the concepts in John Eldredge’s book Wild At Heart.  Especially the idea that what drives us as adults is a “wound” we received from our fathers, usually in the early teen years.  Unlike Eldredge, I believe it’s true for women as well as men.  I am convinced that who we are is shaped by our relationships with our mothers in early childhood, and our relationships (or lack of them) with our fathers as teens/young adults.

None of us quite measure up, we are all rejected by our fathers in one way or another.  It could be a small but profound rejection, or outright abandonment.  From then on, we are forever wandering the earth like Esau, desperately craving the blessing that should have been ours.

I truly believe this with all of my heart.

There is a profound,exponential power in the act of a father standing up before friends and family and saying, “This is my son [daughter], in whom I am well pleased.”  I think that such a moment has the ability to completely alter the course of a child’s life.

Wouldn’t a simple, quiet blessing be enough?  I don’t think so.  I think humans have an inner need for the profundity of ritual; it’s found in every culture in the world.

Yes, my kids will have confirmation at school and at church.  But, once again, it’s not the same thing.  Yes, they will go through the rituals of becoming spiritually adults (or accountable, if you’re a Baptist), and these things are vitally important, but equally important, if not more, is The Blessing.

I cannot imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t spent most of it trying to please my father (most of the time doing it subconsciously).  To have had his blessing.  What if I had gone forth into the world, knowing I already had it?

Now, I know I must be careful.  There is a strong possibility that I could highly offend my Jewish friends, and I want to design this celebration  in a way that is culturally/religiously sensitive.  nm, you’ve got a year to set me straight.  I want the spirit of the whole ritual and celebration, not necessarily the substance.  I do not want to run the risk of making a mockery of a very holy tradition.

Also, I have to be careful NOT to undermine the central tenets of my own religion.  Even with a blessing, it’s very important to me to teach my kids that they will never be whole without a relationship with Jesus Christ.  I know many Christian friends who think a Bar Barakah (Son of The Blessing) is a kind of heresy.  I know I’ll need to be careful.

Sometimes, I think about what I am planning and wonder if I’m off my rocker.  And, I may be.  But I’m also dead serious.

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Posted in Kids. 10 Comments »

10 Responses to “A Bar Mitzvah? Are You Crazy?”

  1. nm Says:

    Considering that you explicitly, and frequently, refer to Jewish Law as a heavy yoke from which Christians are freed, I don’t think that there’s any way that you can have your son become bar mitzvah. (A bar or bat mitzvah refers to the person who has come of age, not to the celebration: it’s “a bar/bat mitzvah party,” not “a bar/bat mitzvah”.) You see, a bar/bat mitzvah, as an adult, has taken on him/herself the observance of the very commandments that you explicitly reject. This is symbolized and formalized by calling the child to (the public reading of) the Torah (which is both Law and Scripture in the Christian sense), for his/her first adult participation in one of the central religious rituals of Judaism. From that time on, he/she will be responsible for observing all of the commandments.

    Have a blessing/adulthood ceremony, by all means — it’s a wonderful idea. But calling it a Bar Mitzvah ceremony ought to be out. In fact, adopting any Jewish ceremony, or calling any ceremony you participate in by the name of a Jewish observance, ought to be out for you, given that you aren’t a Jew and reject Jewish ritual.

  2. Katherine Coble Says:

    I guess nm said what I was going to say, kind of.

    I think that it is sort of offensive, actually, that you frame this question this way.

    OK, not a Bar Mitzvah, exactly; we aren’t Jewish, and a central tenet of our religion holds that he will not be a “Son of the Law” – he will instead one day be freed from the law. Yet, as with so many things, we can find the roots of “right” ways to do things in the Jewish religious traditions.

    This paragraph seems stunningly anti-Semetic to me.

  3. Slartibartfast Says:

    Kat, I truly don’t understand what you mean.

    Hopefully you can elaborate.

  4. bridgett Says:

    Maybe what you’re trying to create is a male version of this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinceañera

  5. Warrior Says:

    Slarti, Eldridge actually goes through a “rite of passage” with his sons. He talks about it in “Way of the Wild Heart”. I’ll drop by a copy if you’d like. Just give me a call.

  6. Eric Says:

    Slarti,

    Maybe you should leave it at the confirmation they will receive, and you stand up and say how pleased you are in your son. Make the confirmation also the “coming of age” ceremony.

    That way you won’t be offending any Jewish friends or those that hold to the Judaism belief system.

  7. Katherine Coble Says:

    Well, I’ll try. Actually I started to try here but then realised it was gonna be a long winded thing with more scope than just addressing your post so I’m moving it over to my blog, refining it and hoping it shows up. (Thank you, WordPress, for eating my posts.)

  8. Let’s Throw The Jews Under The Bus! « Just Another Pretty Farce Says:

    […] what I took from large portions of this post over at Slarti’s place. He’s talking about having a Bar Mitzvah for his 13-year-old […]

  9. dell Says:

    Interesting enough, a year ago I had some of the same conversations, thoughts, and concerns surrrounding my now 14 year old son. My wife and I were set on having a Bar Barakah ceremony/party for him which would include family, friends, and our church family, however about 8 months back I got involved with several men from a few different churches in my area and we decided to “do a study” on spiritual rites of boy to men. Long story short we all(5) of us men did a 6 to 7 week study called Raising Modern Day Knights, which concluded with a camping trip including our boys. At this camping trip each young man received affirmations from their individual fathers, plus a certificate which commemorated the moment. My aforementioned son happened to be the oldest of all of the boys so as a group of men we decided that it required a little more than the others. His affirming included everything the others received plus the laying on of hands from all of the dads, individual prayers, and a gift from me(i gave him a gold cross-which to this day he wears ALL THE TIME). Hopefully this may give you an idea or two of how to create the moment of positive memory for your son. Either way he is blessed to have a parent who is thinking of him in this way.

  10. Carolyn Says:

    Taking into consideration that Christianity has its own Coming-of-Age Sacrament (Confirmation), I do not understand the reason why some Christians have taken on a ceremony like the Jewish one(Bar/Bat Mitzvah). Of course, some Reform Jewish groups have Confirmation too, so I guess it’s ok for Christians to “christianize” the Bar/Bat Mitzvah.


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