Larger than the lunar landing


Last updated 7/10/2019 at Noon

Fifty years ago this month, humankind set foot on the moon for the first time. It was one of the few times when calling an event historic was an understatement.

Yet the Apollo 11 flight wasn’t the most important event in my life back in July 1969. The other event, while not historic at all, was truly momentous for me.

In July 1969 I turned 13 and became a BarMitzvah, a “son of the commandment,” and was thus an adult in the eyes of Judaism.

The transition in Judaism to adult status comes with rights but also responsibilities.

When Jewish children turn 13 they become obligated to observe the commandments, but more importantly they became solely accountable for their actions which previously was their parents’ burden to bear.

One tradition at the service honoring a Bar or Bat (daughter of) Mitzvah is for the parents to recite, “Blessed is God who has freed us from responsibility for this child.”

Jewish children are considered to have become a Bar/BatMitzvah automatically when they turn 13. However, the transition has become a noted life cycle event complete with a worship service element and a celebration following.

Children turning 13 will play an active role in the Shabbat service near their 13th birthday by leading prayers, reading from the Torah, and offering a D’varTorah; a speech on the lessons learned from the weekly Torah portion that was just read.

After the conclusion of the service there is a party which on occasion can rival weddings in their extravagance.

Fifty years after I became a BarMitzvah, I have to admit I remember very little of the Shabbat service where I did all of the traditional things but I do remember the party afterwards. As it was for my two brothers, my parents had it at our house with lots of family, friends, food and fun.

A year before my big day I started studying with the Cantor at my synagogue to learn how to read from the Torah. This was in addition to attending Hebrew School three days a week which I’d been doing since I was eight years old.

Bar and BatMitzvahs at Temple Beth Or, Snohomish County’s only Jewish synagogue, go through a similar experience. They attend weekly Religious School starting at kindergarten and begin individual tutoring a year or so before the big day.

In the coming year Temple Beth Or will be enjoying a record breaking (for us) number of Bar and BatMitzvah ceremonies.

While 2019 is shaping up to be a typical year with five B’neiMitzvot (the inclusive plural), in 2020 nine Temple Beth Or Religious School students will be called up to the Torah in honor of their Bar/BatMitzvah.

On July 20, many of you will be watching documentaries and special reports commemorating Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. I will be doing the same, but I will also be leafing through the pages of my BarMitzvah scrapbook and photo album reliving my own personal history.


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