Bar Mitzvah in Town & the Kibbutz
Nimrod And Yoash
I read how the Bar Mitzvah is celebrated in several kibbutzim and I must admit that I was very jealous. It is so different from the way in which we celebrate it in the town, and in my opinion it is much more successful. In all matters relating to the way in which the celebration is conducted in the kibbutz I must rely on descriptions, however the celebrations in the town I know well. Not long ago I visited one of them. It was more like a wedding than a Bar Mitzvah celebration. The parents, who are not rich, hired a fancy hall and an orchestra and invited hundreds of guests. The Bar Mitzvah boy boasted that it cost his father 1000 lira, and my parents told me that his father borrowed money for it.
When the guests sat around the tables immediately the gluttony started of huge dishes one after the other. The Bar Mitzvah boy walked around proudly squeezed into an elaborate suit with long black trousers. Later he stood on a chair and gave a homily with explosive words put into his mouth by his Bar Mitzvah teacher. Is this the right way to prove that he was entering adulthood? What effort did he make, the young boy, in order to prove that indeed he was qualified and ready for such? What memory will remain with him of the event, apart from the huge expenses?
Now, please compare this celebration with the Bar Mitzvah celebrations at Kibbutz Daphna, for example. Firstly all the members celebrated together. It has changed from a private event to a social event. The boys and girls were given several assignments in order to prove their maturity. They set up a camp site alone and lived in it alone for two days and two nights. They travelled in groups without the guidance of adults to various places in Israel: to Haifa, to the religious kibbutz Tirat Zvi, to Nahalal, to spend two days with a religious family in Zefat, to sail in a fishing boat for three days and so forth.
On their return from their independent travels, they summarized their impressions during class discussions.
In addition, they were required to guard in groups of four, for one whole night, without the accompaniment of adults. A full day of work on the kibbutz was also quite a difficult task. Girls who took over from the carer in the children’s house, or the teacher in the kindergarten, proved their maturity. Thus by their acts the Bar Mitzvah children proved that they were adults and capable of carrying out difficult assignments and to get to know different lifestyles. Of course all of this should not harm the religious ceremony of believers. A child can have the ceremony in the synagogue and afterwards he can prove that he is an adult. It will perhaps cost less than a hall and a celebratory meal however will leave a huge impression on the Bar Mitzvah child. What do you think Yoash?
Not everyone can decide
My dear friend Nimrod
I understand your excitement. New things are always more interesting. At first glance it seems that the celebration in the kibbutz that you described is much better than the version that is customary in the town. I also do not agree with spending huge amounts of money which are a competition between the families – who will succeed in preparing the most magnificent celebration? I also think that the militia like homily of the Bar Mitzvah boy is artificial and ridiculous. However notwithstanding my negative criticism, I am not hurrying to negate the existing customs.
Bar Mitzvah is first and foremost a religious celebration with symbolic significance.
From this moment onwards the young boy bears moral responsibility for his actions. In practice, in our times there are very few boys who actually become independent at this age. They will sit at their parents’ table for many more years and study at schools. In any event, the parents are always happy when their sons reach this stage in life. They want to share it with their family and friends, and the latter recompense them and express their participation in the celebration by gifts (while in the kibbutz the child receives a present from the kibbutz as one entity). I am not sure that the magnificence of the celebration comes only from a desire to show magnificence. This is an ancient custom and tradition of the Jews, and we should not find this to be defective.
In any event, even if you do not like the current way of celebrating the Bar Mitzvah It is not possible that every person will decide how to celebrate it. It’s very possible that we need to find a general and uniform formula that would be acceptable to everyone. And until then – I prefer the regular version, but of course not the magnificence and waste of money.
What do you think readers? Do you agree with me or do you agree with Nimrod? And perhaps you have some other ideas? Write to us.