Yitzhak Ben Yosef
When we came to Israel we renounced all the customs of our life in the Diaspora and even rejected the festivals and traditional customs. We thought: “Nothing from yesterday, tomorrow everything”. It is difficult in fact to agree in this case to the concept “we thought”. It’s more correct that it seemed to us that we had thought, because our very coming and our very rejuvenation of the language were based on the yesterday. However not only this chapter alone was based on contradictions, there was much searching in all areas of life. At present there has been progress in many areas. There are areas in which we can be an example to others – to those that come to us and to other nations who have been settled for generations in their countries.
However if we are noting important achievements in finance, or in sciences, these achievements are not prominent in creating our way of life. And the settlement feels that it is missing. Indeed there have been many attempts, some of them good and successful however there are areas that to this day we have not touched upon them.
One of the things that for several years we have been searching for a way to express is the Bar Mitzvah celebration. Both in the city and in the country this celebration is celebrated and we should analyze it, its essence and determine our approach to it.
One of the worst errors is the celebration of the Bar Mitzvah at this age for a child. A long time before the celebration it is talked about, the content is explained to him, he becomes the centre of all those surrounding him, he is talked about, he is taught, preparations are made for him, he is measured and decorated. The child’s desires are fulfilled. His imagination is fired up, his wishes come true. At the peak of the excitement he reaches the day of the celebration. He sits at the head of the table, many adults come to honour him, bless him, make speeches – and all for him and it is all about him. And after the celebration…..the days of childhood return. All his hopes are undermined. It’s as if he has been deceived. Nothing has changed. The same lessons, the same duties, and again no-one takes his opinions into consideration, those same adults who came to drink and make speeches at his Bar Mitzvah celebration pay him no attention. He is not included in the adults’ affairs and certainly they do not share the responsibility with him. It is clear that the boy undergoes a great crisis, the feelings surrounding him which in any event are only natural become stronger and sharper due to the empty presentation that they presented to him. The empty presentation because we brought it forward due to an ancient custom-tradition, which has become empty of the religious content as perceived by us and its social content due to our cultural situation.
We will not cease celebrating the Bar Mitzvah celebration because in our society there are many commandments. Therefore we need to prepare ourselves and it is our duty to have a transition ceremony in our society. The transition should be pronounced, we need to present the young man for this and emphasize his acceptance into the adult society. He himself needs to prepare himself for this transition and we must prepare him.
When will we celebrate the Bar Mitzvah in our kibbutz or in our agricultural settlements in general? It is customary that our children study eleven years and in the twelfth year he works on the kibbutz, eats in the dining room with the adults and studies several days or half days a week. This year serves as his last year of training. He starts then to enter into the affairs of the kibbutz more deeply. Also when he is in the advanced classes he works on the kibbutz for entire days. However then the centre of his life is still in his studies and it is still a cadet for all intents and purposes. In the twelfth year he receives his final training in school and the start of his real training for adult life amongst adults. This is year of preparation to bear the burden of the commandments.
At the end of the year he will be eighteen, and then he will join the workers unions throughout Israel. He will join a workers union – a member of the workers union in Israel and the professional movements throughout the world and a member of his kibbutz and a member of his group. This and only then is it customary to celebrate the Bar Mitzvah. Then the child transitions to the life of an adult. His rights and duties are as those of an adult – he becomes Bar Mitzvah. Therefore we will celebrate in his honour the Bar Mitzvah celebration.
For eighteen years the members of the kibbutz have waited for this day. They were witnesses to his past, his illnesses, his connections, his successes and his joys. The baby became a boy, started school, finished school, entered the various branches of the kibbutz, he gained multilateral understanding and now he stands an adult and joins their ranks. Their child is their friend. It is clear that there is great happiness in the entire community. And the public – from young to old – shares this celebration. The celebration of a large family who brought their son – their member to this point in time.
And the young man will demonstrate hereon in much of his ability. He must show his accomplishments at work, in sport, in agility, in strength; his rich vocabulary, his ability of expression, his ability to analyze thought processes and the possibility of expressing his ideas; he must recount his thoughts on the day that he enters the society of kibbutz members and the entire community. Yes, this shall be his homily!