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C e le b ra tio n
o f
th e
B atM itz v a h
R a b b iA lfre d
S .
C ohen
T
h e B a rM itz v a h c e le b ra tio n
in
Am erica has com e in for m ore
th a n
its s h a r eo f rid ic u le
a n d
c a ric a tu re . C o m m e rc ia liz a tio n
o fth is
re lig io u s
m ilesto n e
a n d
i t s
m in d le s s
e x p lo ita tio n
h a v e
m anaged
to
d im
th e
lu s treo f a v e ry b e a u tifu la n d
ancient Jew ish
tra d itio n , o n e
a d m ire d
a n d
e n c o u r a g e d
e v e n
a s
fa r
b a c k
a s
th e
T a n n a itic
a g e
alm ost
tw o
th o u s a n d
y e a r s
a g o .
A
f e s t i v e
m eal
t o
m ark
l i f e 's
m ile s to n e s
h a s
lo n g
b e e n
c o n s id e r e d
a p p ro p ria te
-
a
s e u d a h
is
p r e p a r e d
a ta
B ritM ila n ,
a ls o
fo r
a
b rid e
a n d
g ro o m
d u rin g
th e
s e v e n
d a y s
a fte r
th e ir
m a rria g e .
a n d
b y
m any
p e r s o n s
o n
th e
o c c a s io n
o f
m o v in g
in to
a
n e w
h o u s e .
A lre a d y
in
th e
T o ra h
l
w e
fin d
m e n tio n
th a t
A vraham
o u r
P a tria rc h
te n d e re d
a
g r e a t
f e a s t
w hen
his son
Y itz c h a k
was weaned. Consequently,
th e
c o n c e p to f
th e
B ar
M itz v a h
d o e s
d e s e r v e
o u r
m ore
s e r io u s
a tte n tio n
to
u n c o v e r
i t s
e d u c a tio n a l
a n d
e th ic a l
m essage.
M oreover,
th e
n e w
p o p u la rity
o f
th e
fem in ist
m ovem enth a s
m ade
c e le b ra tio n s
o f
B at
M itz v a h
in c re a s in g ly
f a v o r e d ;
e v e n
in
q u ite
tra d itio n a lis t c irc le s,it is n o t u n c o m m o n
fo r
th e
B a t M itz v a h
d a te
t o
b e
ta k e n
n o tic e
o fin
som e
m anner.
H ow ever, a great deal
o f
c o n tr o v e r s y
e x is ts
a s
to
th e
p r o p e r
o r
re lig io u s ly
v a lid
a n d
a c c e p ta b le
w ay
t o
m ark
th is
r i t e ,
a n d
th a t
is
th e
s u b je c t
o f
th e
p r e s e n te n q u iry .T od o
ju s tic e
t o
th e
to p ic ,w e
w ill in v e s tig a te
n o t
1 .
M :le l
O 'lln n :)
R a b b i,
Y o u n g
I s r a e l
o f
C anarsie
I n s tr u c to r
o f
T a lm u d ,
Y e s h iv a
U n iv e r s ity
H ig h
S c h o o l.
6
TH E
JO U R N A LO F
H A L A C H A
o n lyth e
ra b b in icte a c h in g sa b o u t B a tM itz v a hb u t try a ls o
to
p u ti t
in
th e
c o n te x t
o f
th e
b r o a d e r
to p ic
o f
B ar
M itz v a h .
T h e re
a re
a
num bero f
q u e s tio n s
w h ic h
n e e d
1 0
b e
e x p lo re d :
F irst,
w hat
is
th e
h a la c h ic
b a s is ,
i f
a n y ,
o f
m a k in g
a
c e le b ra tio n
u p o n
a
b o y 's
re a c h in g
th e
a g e
o f
th in e e n .
I s
i t
a
u n iv e rs a lly
a p p r o v e d
tra d itio n
o f
lo n g
s ta n d in g
am ong
a ll
c la s s e s
o f
Jew ish
s o c ie ty ?
F u rth e rm o re .
s in c e
w e
s h a ll
s e e
th a t
in d e e d
th e
B ar
M itz v a h
h e ld c o n s id e ra b le
im p o rla n c e in
the eyes ofo u r sages,w e
h a v e
t o
q u e s tio n
w hy
th e re
s h o u ld
b e
a n y
d iffe re n tia tio n
i n
p ra c tic e
b e tw e e n
th e
c o m in g
o fa g e
o fboys and
g i r l s .
O n
th e
f a c e
o f
i t ,
th e
w idespread
n e g le c t
o f
m a rk in g
a
g irl's
p a s s a g e
in to
a d u lth o o d
i s
a
p ra c tic e
w h ic h
re q u ire s
ju s tific a tio n .
I n
a d d itio n ,
th e re
re m a in s
th e
v e r y
s e n s itiv e
is s u e
o f
w h e th e r
a
B at
M itz v a h
c e le b ra tio n ,
a lth o u g h
p o s s ib ly
to ta lly
in n o c u o u s ,
m ig h t
b e
disaU ow ed
b e c a u s e
it
sm acks
o f
im itatio n
o f
n
o
n
~
J
e
w
i
s
h
p ra c tic e s
o r
th e
in n o v a tio n s
o f
n o n - o b s e r v a n tJew s.
N ow here
i n
th e
T o ra h
d o
w e
fin d
in d ic a te d
th e
s p e c ific
tim e
w hen
a
b o yo rg irl re a c h e s m a jo rity , th e a g e o fre lig io u sa d u lth o o d
a n d
fu ll re s p o n s ib ility .H ow ever,th eM is h n a h2
teaches,"T he vow s
o f
a
g irl
o f
tw e lv e
y e a r s
a n d
a
d a y
a re
v a lid
a n d
th o s e
o f
a
b o y
o ld e r
th a n
th irte e n
y e a r s
a n d
a
d a y ."
R ashic o m m e n ts
th a t,
u n til
th a t
tim e,
th e y
a re
" k e ta llim " ,
le g a lly
m inors_
T he
G em ara3
a ls o
in d ic a te s
th a ta g irl s h o u ld
b e g in
f a s t i n g
o n
Y om
K ip p u rfro m
th e
a g eo ftw e lv e a n d
b o y s fro m
th ea g eo f th irte e n . B e fo re
th a ttim e, it
is
th e
p a r e n ts '
o b lig a tio n
t o
t r a i n
th e m
i n
fa s tin g .
T h e re
i sn o
q u e s tio n
th a t
th ro u g h o u tth e c e n tu rie s
th ea rriv a l
o f
a
b o y
a t
th e
a g e
o fB arM itz v a h , becom ing
r e s p o n s ib le
fo r
h is
ow n
d e e d s
a n d
fu ll
o b s e r v a n c e
o f
m itz v o t,
w as
a n
o c c a s io n
o f
re jo ic in g .
T he
a u th o r
o f
K af
H a c h a im
t
m e n tio n s
a
num ber
o f
ra b b in ic
te x ts ,
in c lu d in g
th e
Z o h a r ,
w ho
la u d
th e
p ra c tic e
o f
m a rk in g
th eo c c a s io n
w ith
a festive
m ealto
w h ic h
w ere
in v ite d
th e
Z .
:.'1 1 )
;-n l.
J. .; 'I ! l
K ll1 '.
4 .
K '
: : l : l j
o " n "
'p o
B A T
M IT Z V A H
lu m in a rie s
o f
th e
c o m m u n ity .
I n
h is
g lo s s
to
S h u lc h a n
A r u c h ,
M agen
A v r a h a r n 'rules that it is the
re lig io u s o b lig a tio no f a f a th e r
t o
te n d e r
a
f e s t i v e
m eal
i n
h o n o r
o f
h is
s o n 's
b e c o m in g
B ar
M itz v a h ,
ju s t
a s
h e
o u g h t
t o
d o
w hen
th e
so n
m arries.
T he
e x te n t
a n d
la v is h n e s s
o f
th e
B ar
M itz v a h
c e le b ra tio n ,
however, have
n o ta lw a y s b e e n
the sam e. In
Europe, the event was
c o m m o n ly
m arked
b y
th e
b o y 's
b e in g
c a lle d
to
th e
T o ra h
o n
a
M onday
o rT h u r s d a y
m o rn in g ,a n d
th e
fam ily's offering
a m odest
c o lla tio n
afterw ard .B yc o n tra s t, in A m e ric a so m e p e o p le h a v e g o n e
o v e r b o a r d
i n
la v is h in g
u p o n
th e ir
c e le b ra tio n
e x tr a v a g a n c e s
o f
g a rg a n tu a n
p ro p o rtio n s .
B ut
w h e th e r
th e
c e le b ra tio n
c o n s is tso f a
m odestk id d u s h
o fk ic h e la n d
s c h n a p s
o ra
tre m e n d o u s
fin a n c ia l
u n d e rta k in g ,
i t
is
a
c u s to m
w h ic h
is
v irtu a lly
u n iv e rs a l.
W hy
s h o u ld
th e
a tta in m e n t
o ffu ll
re s p o n s ib ility
fo r
m itz v o t
c a ll fo r a c e le b ra tio n ? W e
m ay
lo o k
for the
a n s w e r ina ne x c h a n g e
r e c o r d e d
i n
th eT a lm u d :6
R abbi Y oseL
w h o w a s b lin d ,is q u o te d a s
s a y in g
th a t
h e
w o u ld
m ake
a
g r e a t
p a rty
i f
a n y o n e
w ere
a b le
to
p ro v e
to
a ll
th e
ra b b is
that a blind
p e r s o n
iso b lig a te d
to
p e rfo rm
m itz v o t.
W hat
w as
b e h in d
h is
m a k in g
th is
f e r v e n t
o ffe r?
T he
ta lm u d ic
s a g e s ,
a fte r
c o n s id e ra b le
d e b a te ,
h a d
c o n c lu d e d
th a t
a
p e r s o n
w ho
p erfo rm sa m itz v a h
e v e n
if h eis n o t re q u ire d
to do so
d o e s
n o t
re c e iv e
a
rew ard
e q u a l
t o
th a t
o f
a
p e r s o n
w ho
is
m a n d a te d
to
d o
a
m itz v a h
a n d
d o e s
il.
A lth o u g h
o n e
m ig h ta r g u e
c o n v e r s e ly ,
th a t
a
p e r s o n
w ho
d o e s n 't
h a v e
to
d o
a
m itz v a h
a n d
d o e s
it
anyw ay
d e s e r v e s
a
g re a te r
rew ard,
th e
ra b b is
to o k
in to
a c c o u n t
th a t
a
p e r s o n
w ho
is
re q u ire d
to
d o
s o m e th in g
h a s
to
overcom e
th e
n e g a tiv e
p u ll
o f
h is
y e tz e r
h a m
(e v il
in c lin a tio n )
w h ic h
t r i e s
t o
in d u c e
h im
n o tto
d o
i t ;
th e re b y , h e m e rits a g re a te r
rew ard.
R abbi
Y oseL
a s
a
b lin d
m an,
w as
exem pt
fro m
d o in g
m itz v o t;
h a d
som eone
b e e n
a b le
to
c h a n g e
th e
ra b b in ic
ru lin g , th e
m itz v o t
th a t
h e
d id
w o u ld
h a v e
e a r n e d
h im
a
g re a te r
rew ard.
T h e re fo re ,
h e
w o u ld
h a v e
te n d e re d
a
p a rty
to
c e le b ra te
h is
n e w
s ta tu s .
S .
'I :
::1 ::1 ,n " llt
c ;o n ::llt]1 1 3 .S ee
l-C "ln
1 1 ::1 " .,'lK ::Ia b o u t h a v in g
a
s e u d a h
fo r
th e
B ar
M ittv ah
in
a
s u c c " h .
6. \u20221<"
1 '1 1 1 1 '....
7

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