Written, and borrowed, for the first child to call me ‘Mommy’:
I love the Jewish tradition of the Bar Mitzvah, the celebration on a boy’s 13th birthday when he becomes a man in the eyes of the Jewish community. I love it for many reasons. It is such a festive celebration, no matter if one is the most religious orthodox Jew or ‘only on high holidays’ observant Jew. So, I did a little research to see if I could retrofit this Jewish tradition into our Christian home. After all, my thinking, Christianity stems from Judaism and I’m creative so I can make this work… Well, my research quickly showed me that retrofitting would not work, mostly for practical reasons, not ideological ones…so I put down my notes, and tried to give up the idea. That was not so easy either because I wanted to do something to really mark this birthday as something ‘more’. A ‘right of passage’.
So, I want to share some of the aspects of a Bar Mitzvah that I believe are relevant to Hayden on his 16th birthday.
A Bar Mitzvah is a ‘Coming of Age’ celebration. It is not another birthday that slips into birthday memories. It stands out. It is a special celebration with a clear meaning ~ you are now a man. What does it mean that you are now a man? It means that you have a new status in the world. Your new status brings a plethora of new opportunities and awesome responsibilities. The first of those opportunities is the ability to get a driver’s license, which comes with the obvious responsibility of driving. The ability to drive will bring you more independence so that more opportunities and responsibilities will present themselves to you. (As they do, remember your new status!)
By the 5th Century, a Bar Mitzvah included a blessing that was recited by the father of the boy turning 13, in which the boy’s father thanks God for freeing him (the father) from the responsibility for the deeds of his child ~ as the child is now accountable for his own actions. By the 17th century Jewish boys celebrated this coming of age by reading from the Torah, chanting, leading services and delivering learned talks. These acts are the mitzvah, of which there are 613 Jewish commandments, or charitable and beneficial acts. And this is where the two roads diverged too much. Not because I don’t think that there are Christian equivalents that you have performed and will perform through your youth group at PRUMC ~ you see, religions in their purest form have more in common with each other than not. It is simply impractical for these purposes… But then I found this:
(A mitzvoth is a commandment (singular form of mitzvah), and I would like to share the one that I found.)
“Behold, I have set before you the blessing,
and the curse,
therefore, choose life.”
So, I broke it down and decided to give it to you as your 16th birthday mitzvoth… What does this mean?
Before you came to be, in this fabulous human form that you took on, you were one with God. That is the blessing. The blessing is the oneness with the divine…I have always told you that you are a child of God….God is love.
The curse, then, is the separation from God. This is illustrated in the story of Adam and Eve when the apple was eaten, became aware of the separation, and forgot that they’d been born their perfect self …not a perfect someone else, but a perfect you.
And, because of the separation from God, fear entered into our consciousness, and not all was love. Remember that God gave us free will. So to choose life is to remind you He wants you to choose the life in which you are your highest self with Him.
All of this is to say that as you go out in this world with your new man-status remember that God is love and you are from Him and one with Him. If you can remember that simple fact as you are faced with the myriad of choices that will come before you, then hopefully your decisions will come from a place of love, and not fear. We make a million decisions/choices a day…how we perceive people, how we present ourselves, how we talk to our friends and family
…and how we drive our cars. Do these things from a place of love.
Now, for some advice from many quotes we’ve found, credit is not always given to the author (sorry!):
Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help, and brave enough to ask for it.
Confidence is silent, insecurities are loud.
Complaining is mouth farting. And like any farting, people don’t mind hearing their own, but they don’t want to hear anyone else’s.
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
You are a glorious Child of God. You are joyful, serene, positive, and loving. ~ MW
Never, ever, ever give up. ~ Winston Churchill
Feed your body. Feed your soul. Bust out!
Stand up for what’s right, even if you’re standing alone.
Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance towards the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point.
If it’s not right, do not do it; if it’s not true, do not say it. ~ Marcus Aurelius
Every moment is a teachable moment in which you are teacher, student, or both ~ make the impression you want mirrored back to you. ~ KW
Be with people who make you laugh.
There is no present like your presence.
Never lie about anything really important. The first lie will cause you to have to lie again and again to cover up the truth. And each time you’ll chip away an important piece of yourself.
Look deeply into the eyes of the one you are falling for to get a glimpse of her soul.
If you get the chance to travel across the country or the globe, take it.
Spend a chunk of time every year with people who are much less fortunate than you are. It will fill your heart with gratitude.
It is better to be a failure at something you love, than a success at something you hate.
Find spirituality that you can wear like a loose coat the keeps you warm in any kind of weather.
The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they just make the best of everything.
Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.
Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. ~Jimi Hendrix
Life becomes easier when you accept an apology you never got.
There is only one thing better than making a new friend, and that is keeping an old one.
The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. ~ Carlos Santana
A friend is a person who knows all about you and still likes you.
Love in your mind produces love in your life. This is the meaning of heaven.
Fear in your mind produces fear in your life. This is the meaning of hell. ~ MW
I’ve not failed, I’ve just fund 10,000 ways that won’t work. ~Thomas Edison
Love is the essential existential fact. It is our ultimate reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. ~ MW
Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. ~ MW, ACIM
Everything you want is on the other side of fear.
And in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss:
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
Be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
Or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!
And, to bring it full circle.
This is one of the goals of the Jewish way of living: to experience commonplace deeds as spiritual adventures, to feel the hidden love and wisdom in all things. ~ Abraham Joshua Heschel
Always remember we love you,
no matter what happens.
You cannot lose us.
We will always be here for you.
~Read on Mother’s Day at Hayden’s 16th birthday celebration with our extended family.