Bar Mitzvahs Are Outdated | Teen Ink

Bar Mitzvahs Are Outdated

December 13, 2009
By EnglishFreak BRONZE, Valley Park, Missouri
EnglishFreak BRONZE, Valley Park, Missouri
2 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Among the population of Jewish people, it is still customary for thirteen year olds, especially males to have a Bar Mitzvah. A Bar Mitzvah is a ceremony where a boy becomes a man. This ceremony typically occurs around the thirteenth birthday; at one point the service was very important because it people truly thought of you as a man after it was completed. No one questions this ritual because it has been done for centuries, but is it really all that important today?

The hardest part of a Bar Mitzvah is preparing for it. At about nine years old you start Hebrew school, which depending on needs or time is usually two days a week for three or so hours. Hebrew is a very hard language to learn because unlike English and Spanish, the letters are all together different, also it reads from right to left instead of left to right. This can become a huge frustration to the student because it adds even more dreaded homework that they have to do. Typically this type of schooling goes on until the student is twelve and having a Bar Mitzvah within a year, at which point private lessons start in preparation for the actual day.

Long ago the Bar Mitzvah was the coming of age ceremony and after it, a person would start working or an apprenticeship and females didn’t partake in the activity. As soon as my Bar Mitzvah was over, I was on my way to my party with friends and family. After the party I was done, no more grueling practices and no more Hebrew School. I think this is part of the problem, I think that most kids forget about religion once their Bar Mitzvah is over. As stated by Emily Bazelon on NPR, “Some kids spend years in Hebrew school programs and attend Shabbat services regularly before their Bar Mitzvah, and some kids get a lot out of that process. Others find that they come to resent it and that it’s something their parents are forcing on them.” I think this has been increasingly more common because not a whole lot of preteens have really made their own decision about religion; it’s just been their parent’s idea, because nothing comes after. Another interesting idea Bazelon brought up was that maybe the process of B’nai Mitzvah is just done at the wrong age. “In the Bible, the age of adulthood is 20, not 13.” I think that if teens chose when their Bar or Bat Mitzvah would be eighteen would be a much better age, or around the time they’re graduating high school. I think this time period would be a lot better because it would allow the teen to choose, not have their parents tell them what to do. Among this idea is that you would get a lot more out of the experience if you did it willingly and if it actually symbolized coming of age, because when you graduate high school is really the modern day time of becoming a man or woman.

After four years of learning a new language, I started working on prayers and reading from the Torah. What makes everything even more fun is that the Torah has no vowels in it, so you have to know what you’re reading and know how the language works. On top of having no vowels, the Torah isn’t written in the common Hebrew language you spent the last four years learning; reading from the Torah is more like reading Shakespeare, with no vowels and in a different language. Finally after almost a year, your special day comes, and from then on most people never use the new language they acquired. So, in a sense, the five years of preparation are slowly forgotten.

One might wonder why people still have Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, especially at a reform congregation, where traditions are a little more relaxed, but not frowned upon. So much time and effort go into a few short hours of glory. Why would we put all this effort into this idea, is it just because the parents were forced to do it, so they think that their kids need to do it, or is it because it helps teach them about being a Jewish man or woman.

When all of the Torah is translated into just about every language there is, is it wrong to want to read an English portion of the Torah for one’s Bar Mitzvah. Or is straining oneself to learn a new and completely different language part of the Bar Mitzvah.

Works Cited
CHAFETS, ZEV. “The Right Way to Pray.” The New York Times. 16 September 2009. 29 October 2009. Web
Brooks, David and Collins, Gail. “Going to Extremism.” The New York Times. 30
September 2009. 29 October 2009. Web

Chadwick, Alex (host) “Slate’s Book Club: Is ’13 and a Day’ Too Young?” NPR

Broadcast interviewing Bazelon, Emily. 17 May 2005. 30 October 2009.

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This article has 1 comment.

miriam SILVER said...
on Jan. 16 2010 at 10:29 pm
miriam SILVER, Skokie, Illinois
9 articles 0 photos 20 comments
I hear the frusturation in what your saying. my brother is 12 and is preparing for his bar mitzvah now and it takes a lot of time for something that seems completely worthless. If your interested in furthering any aspect of Judaism in a more chilled way than Sunday school feel free to reply to this and I can give you some info. if not, good luck in the future!