Bar Mitzvah

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Bede
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Bar Mitzvah

Post by Bede »

What is the purpose of the Bar Mitzvah?

Is it just a "rite of passage" ritual or does it have some deeper religious significance?

Does it relate to the Covenant?

cnorman18

Re: Bar Mitzvah

Post by cnorman18 »

Bede wrote: What is the purpose of the Bar Mitzvah?

Is it just a "rite of passage" ritual or does it have some deeper religious significance?

Does it relate to the Covenant?
The Bar Mitzvah (or Bat Mitzvah for girls -- a relatively new observance; the first girl to have a Bat Mitzvah is still living) is, properly speaking, a regular synagogue service in which the child first reads from the Torah (in Hebrew) and gives a short talk on the meaning of the passage, called a d'var Torah, before the congregation. It signifies the child becoming, in terms of the Covenant, an adult; he or she is now responsible for keeping the Commandments ("Bar Mitzvah" means, literally, "son of the Commandment") and for his or her own behavior. One must begin fasting on Yom Kippur, for instance.

This, the literal meaning, is pretty simple and straightforward; but the term "Bar Mitzvah" is often used in reference to the party and celebration that may last all weekend. Sometimes these parties are incredibly excessive and expensive, and that has become a subject of ferocious debate in the Jewish community. People seem to try to outdo each other with the lavishness and excess of the parties; I personally attended a Bar Mitzvah party that must have cost -- and I am not exaggerating -- something over one million dollars. Many are saying that such monstrous displays of wealth are counter to the spirit of the occasion -- which should, after all, celebrate MATURITY -- and against the principles of the Jewish religion.

The joke (there is always a joke) about the controversy goes like this: "A Bar Mitzvah can cost more than a wedding; why is that?" "Well -- you can only have ONE Bar Mitzvah...."

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Goat
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Re: Bar Mitzvah

Post by Goat »

cnorman18 wrote:
Bede wrote: What is the purpose of the Bar Mitzvah?

Is it just a "rite of passage" ritual or does it have some deeper religious significance?

Does it relate to the Covenant?
The Bar Mitzvah (or Bat Mitzvah for girls -- a relatively new observance; the first girl to have a Bat Mitzvah is still living) is, properly speaking, a regular synagogue service in which the child first reads from the Torah (in Hebrew) and gives a short talk on the meaning of the passage, called a d'var Torah, before the congregation. It signifies the child becoming, in terms of the Covenant, an adult; he or she is now responsible for keeping the Commandments ("Bar Mitzvah" means, literally, "son of the Commandment") and for his or her own behavior. One must begin fasting on Yom Kippur, for instance.

This, the literal meaning, is pretty simple and straightforward; but the term "Bar Mitzvah" is often used in reference to the party and celebration that may last all weekend. Sometimes these parties are incredibly excessive and expensive, and that has become a subject of ferocious debate in the Jewish community. People seem to try to outdo each other with the lavishness and excess of the parties; I personally attended a Bar Mitzvah party that must have cost -- and I am not exaggerating -- something over one million dollars. Many are saying that such monstrous displays of wealth are counter to the spirit of the occasion -- which should, after all, celebrate MATURITY -- and against the principles of the Jewish religion.

The joke (there is always a joke) about the controversy goes like this: "A Bar Mitzvah can cost more than a wedding; why is that?" "Well -- you can only have ONE Bar Mitzvah...."
The most important part of the Bar Mitzvah is that someone can be counted towards a minyan. For an 'official' service to be held, you need 10 adults to have a public prayer service and other religious activities. Orthodox, you need 10 min, but in many conservative and Reform congregations, women are accepted too.
“What do you think science is? There is nothing magical about science. It is simply a systematic way for carefully and thoroughly observing nature and using consistent logic to evaluate results. So which part of that exactly do you disagree with? Do you disagree with being thorough? Using careful observation? Being systematic? Or using consistent logic?�

Steven Novella

cnorman18

Re: Bar Mitzvah

Post by cnorman18 »

Goat wrote:
cnorman18 wrote:
Bede wrote: What is the purpose of the Bar Mitzvah?

Is it just a "rite of passage" ritual or does it have some deeper religious significance?

Does it relate to the Covenant?
The Bar Mitzvah (or Bat Mitzvah for girls -- a relatively new observance; the first girl to have a Bat Mitzvah is still living) is, properly speaking, a regular synagogue service in which the child first reads from the Torah (in Hebrew) and gives a short talk on the meaning of the passage, called a d'var Torah, before the congregation. It signifies the child becoming, in terms of the Covenant, an adult; he or she is now responsible for keeping the Commandments ("Bar Mitzvah" means, literally, "son of the Commandment") and for his or her own behavior. One must begin fasting on Yom Kippur, for instance.

This, the literal meaning, is pretty simple and straightforward; but the term "Bar Mitzvah" is often used in reference to the party and celebration that may last all weekend. Sometimes these parties are incredibly excessive and expensive, and that has become a subject of ferocious debate in the Jewish community. People seem to try to outdo each other with the lavishness and excess of the parties; I personally attended a Bar Mitzvah party that must have cost -- and I am not exaggerating -- something over one million dollars. Many are saying that such monstrous displays of wealth are counter to the spirit of the occasion -- which should, after all, celebrate MATURITY -- and against the principles of the Jewish religion.

The joke (there is always a joke) about the controversy goes like this: "A Bar Mitzvah can cost more than a wedding; why is that?" "Well -- you can only have ONE Bar Mitzvah...."
The most important part of the Bar Mitzvah is that someone can be counted towards a minyan. For an 'official' service to be held, you need 10 adults to have a public prayer service and other religious activities. Orthodox, you need 10 min, but in many conservative and Reform congregations, women are accepted too.
Well, I did forget about that aspect; but whether one could say it's the most important aspect of the Bar Mitzvah -- well, I'm not so sure about that.

It's my understanding, by the way, that counting only adult male Jews toward a minyan is exclusive to the Orthodox. The Committee on Faith and Practice of the Conservative movement has disavowed that practice, and I don't know if the Reform movement ever did it in the first place. I even know of at least two synagogues here in the DFW area that call themselves "traditional," and are Orthodox in all matters but that -- men and women may sit together in services, women can read from the Torah, and women are counted toward a minyan.

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bluethread
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Post by bluethread »

Where does the minyan come from?

Bede
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Re: Bar Mitzvah

Post by Bede »

cnorman18 wrote:
Bede wrote: What is the purpose of the Bar Mitzvah?

Is it just a "rite of passage" ritual or does it have some deeper religious significance?

Does it relate to the Covenant?
The Bar Mitzvah (or Bat Mitzvah for girls -- a relatively new observance; the first girl to have a Bat Mitzvah is still living) is, properly speaking, a regular synagogue service in which the child first reads from the Torah (in Hebrew) and gives a short talk on the meaning of the passage, called a d'var Torah, before the congregation. It signifies the child becoming, in terms of the Covenant, an adult; he or she is now responsible for keeping the Commandments ("Bar Mitzvah" means, literally, "son of the Commandment") and for his or her own behavior. One must begin fasting on Yom Kippur, for instance.
Firstly - thanks for the response.. My interest is mainly in possible parallels with (Catholic) Christian practices and particularly relating to covenants, but also since Christianity comes out of Judaism (though perhaps you won't agree with that) we have something to learn from Jewish practices.

I've got a couple of questions.

1. How do girls fit into the covenant if there is no equivalent for circumcision or (in earlier times at least) a Bat-Mitzvah?

2. What is the situation of a baby (let's stick to males for this) who is born of a Jewish mother but is never:
a) circumcised
b) circumcised but does not progress to a Bar-Mitzvah?

cnorman18 wrote: This, the literal meaning, is pretty simple and straightforward; but the term "Bar Mitzvah" is often used in reference to the party and celebration that may last all weekend. Sometimes these parties are incredibly excessive and expensive, and that has become a subject of ferocious debate in the Jewish community. People seem to try to outdo each other with the lavishness and excess of the parties; I personally attended a Bar Mitzvah party that must have cost -- and I am not exaggerating -- something over one million dollars. Many are saying that such monstrous displays of wealth are counter to the spirit of the occasion -- which should, after all, celebrate MATURITY -- and against the principles of the Jewish religion.
We have something of the same problem with girls making their first communion. Not quite millions spent but the emphasis sometimes seems to be on the party rather than then religious part.

cnorman18 wrote: The joke (there is always a joke) about the controversy goes like this: "A Bar Mitzvah can cost more than a wedding; why is that?" "Well -- you can only have ONE Bar Mitzvah...."
Nice one! :D

Bede
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Post by Bede »

What is a minyan ?

cnorman18

Re: Bar Mitzvah

Post by cnorman18 »

Bede wrote:
cnorman18 wrote:
Bede wrote: What is the purpose of the Bar Mitzvah?

Is it just a "rite of passage" ritual or does it have some deeper religious significance?

Does it relate to the Covenant?
The Bar Mitzvah (or Bat Mitzvah for girls -- a relatively new observance; the first girl to have a Bat Mitzvah is still living) is, properly speaking, a regular synagogue service in which the child first reads from the Torah (in Hebrew) and gives a short talk on the meaning of the passage, called a d'var Torah, before the congregation. It signifies the child becoming, in terms of the Covenant, an adult; he or she is now responsible for keeping the Commandments ("Bar Mitzvah" means, literally, "son of the Commandment") and for his or her own behavior. One must begin fasting on Yom Kippur, for instance.
Firstly - thanks for the response.. My interest is mainly in possible parallels with (Catholic) Christian practices and particularly relating to covenants, but also since Christianity comes out of Judaism (though perhaps you won't agree with that) we have something to learn from Jewish practices.

I've got a couple of questions.

1. How do girls fit into the covenant if there is no equivalent for circumcision or (in earlier times at least) a Bat-Mitzvah?
Well, though the Torah, and the rest of the Hebrew Bible, contain remarkable advances for the times in which they were written, the ancient Israelites, like the other civilizations of the time, were pretty heavily patriarchal.

Women's responsibilities under the Covenant were different, but have always been regarded as important, even essential. Women were, for example, exempt from any mitzvot ("commandments," small c) that were time-related, such as ceremonial prayer times, most probably because the times when children need care are not predictable. On the other hand, lighting the Shabbat candles on Friday night has always been the privilege of women. Much more on the subject can be found here and here.
2. What is the situation of a baby (let's stick to males for this) who is born of a Jewish mother but is never:
a) circumcised
b) circumcised but does not progress to a Bar-Mitzvah?
Such a child is Jewish, period. Some boys are not circumcised for medical reasons (e.g. haemophilia), and some because the parents object. The latter is less common among the Orthodox, but it does happen.

The Bar Mitzvah is entirely optional; there is no requirement for it, and some boys do not have one.
cnorman18 wrote: This, the literal meaning, is pretty simple and straightforward; but the term "Bar Mitzvah" is often used in reference to the party and celebration that may last all weekend. Sometimes these parties are incredibly excessive and expensive, and that has become a subject of ferocious debate in the Jewish community. People seem to try to outdo each other with the lavishness and excess of the parties; I personally attended a Bar Mitzvah party that must have cost -- and I am not exaggerating -- something over one million dollars. Many are saying that such monstrous displays of wealth are counter to the spirit of the occasion -- which should, after all, celebrate MATURITY -- and against the principles of the Jewish religion.
We have something of the same problem with girls making their first communion. Not quite millions spent but the emphasis sometimes seems to be on the party rather than then religious part.
So I have heard. The quinceanera celebration for Latina girls' fifteenth birthdays, and the old-fashioned debutante party for Anglos of a certain class, are similar. For gentile boys, such things seem to be limited to being named captain of the football team or being accepted by Yale.
cnorman18 wrote: The joke (there is always a joke) about the controversy goes like this: "A Bar Mitzvah can cost more than a wedding; why is that?" "Well -- you can only have ONE Bar Mitzvah...."
Nice one! :D
Aah, I've got a million of 'em. Well, 100,000, anyway.

Oh, for your next:
What is a minyan?
It means, roughly, "quorum." Some Jewish prayers -- notably the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead -- may only be said in the presence of ten adult Jews.

This is really a rather humane requirement of Jewish death traditions; since one is supposed to recite the Kaddish dailly for eleven months after the death of a member of one's immediate family, this requirement keeps the bereaved from withdrawing from the community. In fact, since for the first seven days after such a death, one is not to leave one's home -- this is called the Shiva period, no relation to the Hindu goddess -- members of the congregation will gather at one's home so that the mourner may say Kaddish. It's considered a great good deed to attend a "Shiva minyan," as it's called. The whole process is intended to keep the mourner connected with the community for comfort and support, and to ease one back into ordinary life after losing a loved one.

Bede
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Post by Bede »

Many thanks.

That is all very interesting.

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Re: Bar Mitzvah

Post by sleepyhead »

Bede wrote: Firstly - thanks for the response.. My interest is mainly in possible parallels with (Catholic) Christian practices and particularly relating to covenants, but also since Christianity comes out of Judaism (though perhaps you won't agree with that) we have something to learn from Jewish practices.
Hello Bede,

I found Shavuot / Pentecost to be interesting. For Judaism it commemorates the giving of the law while in Christianity it commemorates the giving of the Holy Ghost.
May all your naps be joyous occasions.

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