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Bar and Bat Mitzvah
Bar Mitzvah Celebration

Meir Melamed



In various kibbutzim, when the children reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, the question arose, how would they mark this date in the life of the child: should it be celebrated like a regular birthday plus a gift in the form of a bible or other present, or should new content be introduced which would be appropriate for the great event of the transition from childhood to adulthood and self responsibility. At Kibbutz Kinneret there were 12 boys in one Bar Mitzvah year. The kibbutz turned it into a general celebration for the settlement. A special magazine was published in which the parents and children of the Bar Mitzvah participated. To celebrate Meir Melamed wrote in the magazine:

A custom has become rooted here to celebrate every year the birthdays of the children. I think that this custom is not suitable for us, and this – not because I do not appreciate the very marking of the birthday, on the contrary, however often the events are too close together that the child celebrates himself or participates in other birthday celebrations, and by such they lose importance of the celebratory event and it becomes too regular, too ordinary.

On the other hand we should and it is important to mark and celebrate the end of certain periods in the life of the child such as: starting kindergarten, starting school, transitioning from the young society to the adult society, finishing school, starting work etc and including the rejuvenation and renewal of the ancient custom of celebrating the Bar Mitzvah for children. When a child reaches the age of thirteen years, a familiar and very important part of his life finishes, his childhood finishes and he starts to become an adult both physically and also mentally; his understanding reaches such a stage that he starts to be independent, responsible for his actions.

According to Jewish tradition up to the age of thirteen the parents are responsible for the child and his actions, and from thirteen and onwards the child is responsible for his own actions both the good and the bad himself: he carries his good deeds and his punishable deeds. This transition, the most important change in the child’s life – should and it is appropriate that it should be marked, not to mention that by this we are rejuvenating an ancient custom of our people, a custom that had been hallowed in tradition for many generations and that introduced much light, beauty and experience to the life of the children of Israel from generation to generation.

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