“Today I am a man” — the traditional opening to a bar mitzvah speech — is not a piddling statement, especially coming from a 13-year-old.
This incredible documentary preview got us thinking: what is it like growing into manhood in the United States and — for heaven’s sake — how do you become a “man”?
For starters, the traditional blessing that a father recites after his son is bar mitzvah’d helps to shed some light on this query. In the blessing, the father thanks God for removing the burden of being responsible for his son’s sins.
Why would a father do this? Well, clearly because the son is now responsible for his own actions. In the Jewish religion, 13 is an age considered old enough for a person to not only understand what actions are acceptable, but also take full responsibility for them.
And what about in American society? Surely, we don’t see the 13-year-olds walking around our communities as “men.” Interestingly, though, roughly the same age — 14 — is when Anglo-American common law confers minimal criminal liability on individuals, and some states even allow marriage!
In Judaism, becoming a “man” (or woman) isn’t about being an adult, it’s about being a bar mitzvah or “son of the commandment” — someone who respects the commandments and takes responsibility for his own actions. Although there’s certainly a serious side to starting this new monumental journey in your life, it can actually be a lot of fun because you truly get to take pride in your choices and who you are. Not to mention, you get to kick it all off with a fantastic celebration and not only become a bar mitzvah, but have one too!!
photo credit: photo 1 – solveisraelsproblems.com :: photo 2 – hard quotes.com :: photo 3 – tendenarium.com :: photo 4 – memejelly.tumblr.com :: photo 5 – Southern California Mitzvahs, photography by Tim Halberg