Monday, October 27, 2008

Bar Mitzvah for Gentiles / Reviewing the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah

Bar and Bat Mitzvah for Gentiles

Those people growing up live in post industrial societies where people have been homogenised, deracinated, detribalised, and have become both the perpetrators and victims of a vacuous consumerism, sometimes feel a lack. They may turn to on of inumerable addictions, some of which are more socially approved of, some less. Graffiti, vandalism, alcoholism, gangs, drugs, authoritarian structures where the other is demonised, workaholism, internet addictions, shopping, overeating...when some of these people go shopping for traditions and ceremonies that will enhance their lives, and give them a sense of their worth and their place in the universe. Judaism might want to be there offering them something.

An expanded Bar Mitzvah (as discussed below) might offer a lot to people who have not grown up with a particlar faith tradition, and are looking for a rite of pasage which will help them to meaningfully transition (now there's an American refitting of a noun as a verb!) from one life stage to the next. Jewish congregations could offer this ceremony as part of their outreach programmes.

they call it a rite of passage

but from where to where

and is it to become more righteous

or more riotous

or both

hard to get it right

the son of commandments

on a mission from G-d

to laugh without reservation

sing without hesitation

serve without calculation

be without justification

Reviewing the age of Bat and Bar Mitzvah

While the current age of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah (12 for girls, 13 for boys) is well timed to coincide with the onset of puberty, in many other ways, in this time and place, 13 is not an age when children enter into adulthood, but rather into the narcissistic and intense highs and lows of adolescence. It might make a lot more sense to have the ceremony at 17 or 18, where it might co-incide with other events and markers of adulthood such as legal majority, driving licences, final year(s) at school, or even the completion of school. Any comments or responses from readers?

I personally would like to see the bar mitzvah in general gaining extra layers of meaning by evolving into a male rite-of passage /initiation ceremony where boys are mentored into meaningful, powerful and compassionate manhood by older males. It would involve a little bit of adrenalin (maybe with some white water rafting, or a long hike....see the Mankind project and

The Bar / Bat Mitzvah process (for it is a process, not a single ceremony) would also involve some sex education (so that boys don't just get their ideas from their peers and from porn sites etc etc) where the sacredness of sex is emphasised, and some community/tzedaka type work where the barmitzvah or batmitzvah contributes a certain number of volunteer hours for a worthwhile organisation or cause of their choice - mine would be CLAW or the Tibetan Bhuddist project in Groot Marico or several bautiful organisations in Israel...of course everyone will have their own list.

AND a very unostentatious community ceremony in a shul where the child reads from the torah, gives a dvar torah ( a personal interpretation of their portion) and is acknowledged for all they have achieved by their community, AND their parents are acknowledged for having raised a productive and responsible member of the community (takes a village to raise a child, but nevertheless parents have a central role)


Laurance said...

Well if it was intended to coincide with puberty so that one could safely marry off the buds just as they were being tested with frantic hormoaning,perhaps we should bring it down to 9 for girls and 10 for boys, the average age of modern pubescence. It would need to include some training for varying degrees of intimacy (remember the days of 'heavy' petting when we stroked one another as beloved furry pets?) Perhaps we add an age set the way of the Maasai. Kids who barely have a name. (Kdam-shems) Then the 10 year old gate pass bringing you into the world of hormone imbalance, exploration and rebellion. Call that the age of Morons (Morans in Maasai). And when the silly days have passed and you can get insurance on your own car and vote, you do the next age set, called the 'accountables'.

Immanuel said...

Interesting...the morans and the accountables...not sure in boys the onset is as early as 10, unless its all the growth hormones in the Kentucky Fried Cruelty and Macmediocre food they eat